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The Problem of 
the Obelisks 

Fig. I.— obelisks OF TUTHMOSIS I (left) AND HATSHEPSOWET {right) AT KARNAK. 
(The nearei obelisk leans to the left owing to soil-subsidence.) 






Assoc. C. & G. Inst. 

Qhief IntftctOT of Antiquities^ Upper Egypt (Author of RiQQtH, 1915 
Ths Aswan Obelisk, 1922 ; Haragkh, igi^f etc.J 






First publish fd in 1923 



THIS book has been written, not only to 
give the general reader the results of the 
latest researches on the ages-old problem 
as to how the obelisks were extracted and erected 

R. Engelbach 


Page 19, last line, for " Ramose " read " Seti I." 
,, 48, lines 13, 20, and 22, for " 3'i5 inches" read 

" 315 inch." 
,, 60, line 5, for " rollers " read " baulks." 
„ 70, lines 15 and 17. for ^-„Vt read ^i^. 

quarry in 1921 ana 1922 nave aireaay oeen 
published by the Antiquities Department, under 
the title of The Aswan Obelisk, with some remarks 
on the Ancient Engineering, of which this is 
practically a popular edition. It has been 
entirely re-written and re-arranged, omitting 
the rather elaborate calculations on stresses 
and leverages which are given at length in the 
official volume, but giving in far greater detail 



(all rights RtSSRVIo) 


THIS book has been written, not only to 
give the general reader the results of the 
latest researches on the ages- old problem 
as to how the obelisks were extracted and erected 
in ancient times, but also to furnish visitors to 
Aswan with a full description of the huge 
unfinished obelisk lying in the quarries a short 
distance from the Cataract Hotel, which has 
thrown a great deal of light on the ancient 
methods. I have included in it, for comparison, 
brief accounts of the removal and re-erection in 
modern times of the Vatican, Paris, London and 
New York obelisks. No detailed account of the 
Aswan Obelisk has yet appeared in any guide- 

The results of my clearance of the obelisk 
quarry in 1921 and 1922 have already been 
published by the Antiquities Department, under 
the title of The Aswan Obelisk, with some remarks 
on the Ancient Engineering, of which this is 
practically a popular edition. It has been 
entirely re-written and re-arranged, omitting 
the rather elaborate calculations on stresses 
and leverages which are given at length in the 
official volume, but giving in far greater detail 



the results of my experiments with the scale 
model shown in figs. 27-33, which Mr. Donaldson, 
of the Egyptian State Railways, kindly made to 
my design. No photographs of this model 
have been hitherto published. 

Although more than a year has elapsed since 
sending the manuscript of The Aswan Obelisk 
to press, I have not had to modify my views on 
the ancient methods in any point of importance ; 
further study of the quarry has, however, 
induced me to omit the alternative suggestion 
on the manner in which the obelisk was rolled 
clear of the quarry (page 53) and to assert, 
with some confidence, that sleds were an essential 
in the transport of all large obelisks. 

To the reader who may charge me with 
expending so much space on such a restricted 
subject as that of the making of obelisks, I 
would recall the deathbed answer of the old 
professor to his friends, who had asked him if 
he did not think he had wasted his life by devot- 
ing it exclusively to the study of Greek preposi- 
tions. He repUed : " It is true ; I should 
have confined myself to those governing the 
Dative ! " Like him, I feel that I have unduly 
digressed in Chapter VIII, when so much remains 
to be discussed on the mechanical side. 

In explaining the various processes, I have 
tried to indicate clearly where fact ends and 
deduction begins, and frankly to admit — as in 


the case of the details of the transport barges — 
where there is not sufficient evidence on which 
to speculate, or when any stage of the mechanical 
history of the obelisk is not clear to me. 

There is an increasing demand, among the 
10,000 visitors who come to Egypt each year, 
for facts about the arts, crafts, engineering and 
practical life of the Egyptians ; in other words, 
for a compact account of what is known on a 
subject that interests them; and there is a 
corresponding and natural dislike to descriptions 
of the never-ending scenes of gods and kings, 
which, after all, convey very little information 
even to the archaeologist. There is a surprising 
difference between the taste of the average 
visitor now and that of fifteen years ago. Then 
the chief point of remark about the tourist was 
his Baedeker and his boredom ; now Breasted's 
Ancient Records and the latest archaeological 
works are constantly seen in his hands, in addi- 
tion to that excellent guide-book. 

In the following pages I have been occasionally 
guilty of levity. My defence is that it is as a 
sort of protest against a habit — so dear to the 
dilettanti in Egyptian lore — of never speaking 
of anything " Ancient Egyptian " except in 
sepulchral tones and with bated breath, lest 
a curse fall upon them ! As a matter of fact the 
Egyptian, apart from his religion, was essentially 
a practical man, and by no means opposed to 


a little levity ; one has only to read the text 
accompanying some of the banqueting scenes 
in the tombs — such as that of Paheri at El-Kab 
— to be convinced of this. Further, this book 
deals with work, and lacks the " romance " 
popularly associated with the gods, graves and 
ghosts of ancient Egypt. I have only dipped 
into the graveyard for purely secular information, 
such as the careers of the ancient architects. 
My feeble attempts to brighten up a rather 
*' tough '* subject may therefore be pardoned, 
if not approved. 

On the subject of the transcription of Egyptian 
names, a word of explanation may not be out 
of place. I am constantly asked, *' Which 
should it be : Tuthmosis, Thothmes, Tahutimes, 
Dhutmose, Tuthmose or Thutmosis ? " or : " Was 
the Queen called Hatshepsut, Hatshepsowet, 
Hatshepsuit, Hatshopsitou or Hatasoo ? " The 
reason for these variants is that the Egyptians 
wrote their names in consonants only, except — 
apparently under protest — when they indicated 
the presence of an initial vowel or final i. The 
system adopted here is practically that given 
by Dr. Alan Gardiner in his Topographical 
Catalogue of the Private Tombs of Thebes, and that 
is an attempt to reconstruct the names, following 
the latest researches in the ancient vocalisation. 
In the case of kings, where the Greek or 
Manethonian form is well known and appears 


to be close to the probable articulation, it has 
been retained. Thus we say Hatshepsowet, 
Dhuthotpe and Sennemut, but Tuthmosis, Ame- 
nophis and Ramesses. This system is being 
adopted by the Survey of Egypt for their future 
publications. The variants given in Appendix II 
will, I hope, clear up all the reader's difficulties 
in this respect. 

In collecting the history of the obelisks and 
their architects for Chapter VIII, I am greatly 
indebted to Prof. J. H. Breasted's invaluable 
Ancient Records, which give, in a handy form, 
translations of every historical document in 
Egypt. Though in most cases the translations 
given in that chapter are based on Prof. Breasted's 
work, I have occasionally sacrificed his strictly 
literal translation in order to give the reader a 
freer rendering. 

My thanks are due to the Antiquities Depart- 
ment of the Egyptian Government for permission 
to reproduce from The Aswan Obelisk figures 5-1 1, 
13-20, 22, 25, 26, 34-36 ; to Messrs. Macmillan 
and Co. for the loan of the blocks for figures 21, 
23 and 24 ; and to Messrs. Harmsworths, Ltd., 
for permission to reproduce the photographs on 
figures I, 2 and 38-40 from my article on obelisks 
in Wonders of the Past. Photos 3, 4 and 18 
were taken by Mr. A. M. MacGillivray, of Aswan ; 
I, 2, 38-40 by Gaddis and Self, Luxor ; the 
remainder are mine. 



Preface 7 

Obelisks and Quarries .... 17 


Description of the Aswan Obelisk . . 25 

Setting Out an Obelisk .... 32 


Extraction of an Obelisk ... 41 

Transport of an Obelisk .... 52 

Erection of Obelisks 66 


Some Ancient Records .... 85 


A History of Certain Obelisks and Their 

Architects 92 



Removals of Obelisks in Modern Times . 114 


Dates of Egyptian Kings Mentioned in 

THE Volume 123 

Vocalisations of Egyptian Words . . 125 

Index 128 


No. of 
Fig. Page 

1. Obelisks of Tuthmosis I (left) and Hatshep- 

s6wet (right) at Karnak . {Frontispiece) 

2. Obelisk of Senusret I at Mataria, near Cairo . i8 

3. Aswan Obelisk from the east ... 26 

4. Aswan Obelisk from the west . . . 26 

5. Hammer-dressing on pyramidion of Aswan 

Obelisk ....... 28 

6. Outline of scheme for reducing size of Aswan 

Obelisk ....... 28 

7. Plan and sections of Aswan Obelisk to a scale 

of 1/200 ...... ^ 38 

8. Wedge and chisel marks near Aswan Obelisk 42 

9. Rough chisel-dressing on unfinished sarcophagi 

known as " El-Hamm3,mmat," near Aswan 42 

10. Black granite hammer from Gizeh . . 42 

11. Interior of separating- trench round Aswan 

Obelisk ....... 42 

12. View of trench round Aswan Obelisk when 

standing within it .... . 42 

13. Measuring-Hnes on upper quarry-face, Aswan 

ObeUsk .....,, 44 

14-17. Traces of inscriptions on upper quarry-face . 46 

18. View of Aswan ObeUsk from the north . . 50 

19. Bed from which a small monument, probably 

an obelisk, has been removed ... 50 

20. ObeUsk of Hatshepsowet, mounted on a sled, 

from her sculptures at Der El-Bahari . . 57 

21. Transport of the statue of Dhuthotpe, from 

his tomb at El-Bersheh .... 59 

22. Sketch-plan of the neighbourhood of obelisk 

quarry, Aswan ..... 60 

23. Cargo-boat, New Kingdom .... 61 

24. Boat of Queen Hatshepsowet, from the Punt 

reliefs at Der El-Bahari .... 62 

25. Position of base of Hatsheps6 wet's obelisk on 

its pedestal ...... 68 

26. Gigantic embankment for transporting stone, 

Aswan ....... 




No. of 
Fig. Page 

27. Sectional model of an embankment, to show 

method of erecting obelisks ... 70 

28. ObeUsk at the top of the slope, overhanging 

the sand-funnel ..... 70 

29. Sled half removed ..... 70 

30. ObeUsk engaging in the sand ; all the lashings 

are released ...... 72 

31. Obelisk half-way down the funnel . . 72 

32. Obelisk at rest at the bottom of the funnel, 

its edge engaging in the notch of the pedestal 72 

33. ObeUsk after it has been pulled upright . 72 

34. Choisy's suggestion for raising obeUsks . 77 

35. Choisy's theory on the erection of obeUsks . 78 

36. „ ., ,. .. „ 78 

37. Statue of Sennemut, architect of Hatshepso- 

wet's obelisks, holding her daughter Nef rurS, 

to whom he was tutor .... 100 

38. King Tuthmosis III presents obelisks, flag- 

staves and booty from Palestine to the god 
Amen-Re, Karnak ..... 108 

39. Obelisk of Ramesses II, Temple of Luxor. 

Its fellow is now at the Place de la Concorde, 

Paris ..... . . 112 

40. Contemporary sculpture of Pylon of Ramesses 

II in the Temple of Luxor, showing obelisks, 
flagstaves and colossi . . . . 112 

41. Model showing how the Paris Obelisk was 

lowered and erected . . . . 116 

42. Model to show how the lowering and the raising 

of the New York Obelisk were performed. 116 

43. Lowering of the New York ObeUsk. Towers 

and trunnions about to be removed . 118 

44. Lowering of the New York ObeUsk. Removing 

the wooden baulks from each end alternately 118 



OBELISKS have always held a great 
attraction for visitors to Egypt through- 
out the ages. From the time of Assur- 
banipal II onwards nearly every foreign con- 
troller of Egypt has removed one or more as a 
souvenir. Though there must have been several 
score of large obelisks in the country — Karnak 
alone had at least thirteen — there now remain 
but five standing. Earthquakes, soil-subsidence 
and the foreigner have indeed taken a toll. 

Though records of obelisks extend back into 
the Old Kingdom, and fragments of them have 
been discovered, the earliest complete example 
is that of King Senusret I of the Xllth dynasty 
at El-Mataria, near Cairo, shown in fig. 2. The 
others are those of Tuthmosis I, Queen Hatshep- 
sowet and Seti II at Karnak, and the obelisk 
in front of Luxor temple dating to the reign of 
Ramesses II. Of these, that of Tuthmosis I 
(frontispiece) is in a rather dangerous condition 
owing to the settling of its pedestal, and that of 
2 17 


Seti II is only a miniature obelisk of gritstone, 
of which there must have been hundreds in the 
country. Against this Rome has nine over 
20 feet high, while Constantinople, Paris, London 
and New York all have one large obelisk, not to 
mention several small ones in museums, private 
collections and gardens. 

In ancient times there must have been a 
great number of large obelisks in Egypt. Seti I 
tells us that he " filled Hehopolis with obelisks," 
and Ramesses II is known to have had fourteen 
in Tanis alone, though whether he erected them 
or merely usurped them, according to his habit, 
is uncertain. Besides the temples of the great 
centres such as Karnak and Luxor, Heliopolis 
and Tanis, many of the temples in other places 
must have had them. We have actual records of 
obelisks at Philse, Elephantine, Soleb (in Nubia), 
the mortuary temple of Amenophis III behind 
the Colossi of Thebes, and elsewhere. The 
total number of obelisks exceeding 30 feet in 
length must have been well over fifty. 

The origin and religious significance of the 
obelisk are somewhat obscure. In the royal 
sanctuaries of the fifth d3niasty kings on the 
margin of the western desert at Abusir, not far 
from the Pyramids of Gizeh, the obelisk took 
the place of the holy of holies of the later 
temples. Recent excavations have shown that 
these obelisks were very different from those 
now familiar to visitors, as the length of the 
base was fully one-third that of the shaft, 
which was of masonry and merely served the 

(Pages 17, 30 and iii.) 



purpose of elevating the sacred pyramid or 
henhenif), as the Egyptians called it — the real 
emblem of the sun. The obelisks of Upper 
Egypt, on the other hand, had no very definite 
connection with sun-worship, their only function 
being an additional decoration to the pylons, 
though it is known that they were greatly 
venerated and offerings were made to them. 
They were erected in pairs, and when Tuthmosis 
III (p. 109) put up a single one at Kamak, he 
says that it was the first time that this had been 
done. Until we know how early obelisks were 
placed before the pylons of Upper Egypt, it is 
rather difficult to say whether they were de- 
veloped from the fifth dynasty sun-obelisks or 
independently, particularly when one realises 
that, if a high, thin stone monument is desired, 
the obelisk is the only practical form which 
is pleasing to the eye and convenient for inscrib- 
ing. In any case, the subject is really outside 
the scope of this book, which deals rather with 
the mechanical side of obelisk-lore. A discussion 
of the obelisk as a sun-emblem pure and simple 
is given in Prof. J. H. Breasted's Development 
of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt 
(Hodder and Stoughton) on pages 11, 15 and 71. 
The cLTtistic taste of the ancient Egyptian 
differed considerably from ours and, to our 
minds, he was in the habit of decorating objects 
which do not need any decoration whatever. 
He had — like the modern Egyptian — a perfect 
mania for painting and gilding everything. In 
the tomb of Ramose at Thebes (No. 55) he has 


painted in gaudy colours the most wonderfully 
detailed reliefs, and we know for certain that he 
overlaid the huge fir-trees, which formed the 
pylon fiagstaves, with bands and tips of electrum 
or copper. Obelisks did not escape this craze, 
and as far back as our records go they were 
capped with electrum, copper or gold. The 
Arab historian 'Abd El-Latif, writing as late as 
I20I A.D., states that the two Heliopolis (Mataria) 
obelisks still retained their copper caps, and that 
around them were other obelisks large and small, 
too numerous to mention (see page iii). Now 
only one remains. 

The unfinished obelisk of Aswan, though its 
existence has been known for centuries, was 
never cleared until the end of the winter of 1922, 
when my Department granted me L.E. 75 to do 
so. In this work I was assisted by Mahmud Eff. 
Mohammad and Mustafa Eff. Hasan of the 
Antiquities Department, who supervised the 

Before the clearance, all the visitor could see 
of the obelisk was the top surface of the pyra- 
midion and about 20 yards of shaft, which sloped 
down into a vast heap of sand, chips and granite 
boulders. It has now become one of the most 
visited sights in Aswan, since nothing of its kind 
is to be seen elsewhere. 

Most persons, having seen the temples and 
tombs of Egypt, become more or less blase to 
them. This is largely due to the fact that no- 
one — least of all the dragomans — brings home 
to them the enormous difficulties the Egyptians 


overcame. They dismiss them as beyond their 
understanding, and many closer students of the 
monuments than the average visitor have boldly 
affirmed that the Egyptians knew engines and 
forces of nature of which we are to-day ignorant. 
This is quite a wrong idea ; it is, as a matter of 
fact, far easier to explain every step in the 
mechanics of a large obelisk to the non-technical 
reader than those of an iron bridge. Though 
modern research robs the Egyptians of the 
magical powers attributed to them, it makes 
them more admirable in the eyes of the practical 
man, as it shows that they could do, with the 
most primitive tools, feats of engineering which 
we, with some 3,000 years of mechanical progress 
behind us, are barely able to copy. 

A study of the Aswan Obelisk enables the 
visitor to look with different eyes on the finished 
monuments, and to realise, not only the immense 
labour expended in transporting the giant 
blocks and the years of tedious extraction of 
stone in the quarries, but the heartbreaking 
failures which must sometimes have driven the 
old engineers to the verge of despair before a 
perfect monument could be presented by the 
king to his god. Nowadays, if anything gets 
out of position, a jack, a winch or a crane is 
called for, and the trouble is soon put right ; 
in ancient times a colossus or an obelisk which 
came down badly on to its pedestal was some- 
thing in the nature of a tragedy. A perfect 
monument teaches us httle of their engineering ; 
an imperfect or unfinished piece of work may 


teach us much. Thus the obelisk of Hatshepsd- 
wet at Karnak, standing askew on its pedestal, 
which must have been a perpetual sore point to 
Sennemut, its engineer, is useful to us, as it 
enables us at once to rule out the levering-up 
theories put forward by Gorringe and others 
who have written on the subject (page 67). 

The Aswan Obelisk is a piece of work that 
failed, not through any fault of the workers, but 
owing to an unexpected fissure in the rock. It 
must have been galling beyond words to the 
Egyptians to abandon it after all the time and 
trouble they had expended, but to-day we are 
grateful for their failure, as it teaches us more 
about their methods than any other monument 
in Egypt. 

The great quarries of Aswan and Silsileh are 
quite untouched as regards excavation, which 
is one of the reasons why our knowledge on the 
extraction of stone is so very unsatisfactory. 
In spite of this there is quite a considerable 
literature on the subject, mostly done either by 
engineers (on a brief visit) with no knowledge of 
archaeology to enable them to control their 
assertions, or by archaeologists to whom engineer- 
ing is a sealed mystery. While the publication 
of a new grammatical form or historical point 
wiU evoke a perfect frenzy of contradiction 
in the little world of Egyptology, the most absurd 
statements on a mechanical problem will be left 
unquestioned, and, what is worse, accepted. 
In most branches of modern archaeology the 
alleged savant must work in conjunction with 


the specialist, and the specialist needed for the 
subject under discussion is the foreman quarry- 
man. This was brought home to me with great 
force when I was at work on the obelisk, and I 
shall never forget the ease nor the contempt 
with which an old Italian quarryman disproved 
some of my then most cherished theories. His 
range of knowledge may have been limited, but 
it was painfully accurate. 

A walk round the quarries between the railway 
and the Reservoir road at Aswan well repays the 
trouble. Here we may see gigantic embank- 
ments, some nearly half a mile in length, on which 
the great blocks were transported from the high 
desert down to the Nile ; we can see half- 
finished sarcophagi (fig. 9, page 42) and statues, 
abandoned no one knows why, in various stages 
of completion ; we can see inscriptions, some 
readable and some not, painted or cut on the 
boulders by the ancient engineers, and every- 
where we may see the marks of their wedges, 
some showing where a block has been removed, 
others where the wedge has failed to act, or has 
split the rock in the wrong direction. The site 
clamours for excavation, which might well reveal 
chippings from the chisels used in cutting the 
granite, and thus settle, once and for all, whether 
they were of highly tempered copper or not ; 
another abandoned monument might give us 
conclusive information as to the methods by 
which they were detached from below, and how 
it was intended to roll them out from their beds. 
Excavation might well furnish us with ancient 


levers and rollers — or traces of them — which are 
hardly known at present, and then only of small 
size. A big quarry has never been cleared, 
and we cannot believe that the small area 
excavated round the obelisk has revealed all 
the secrets. The explanation of the neglect 
of the quarries is that they are not likely to 
afford good museum-pieces. 

With an expenditure of L.E. 500 a really 
comprehensive study of quarrying could be 
made, which would surely add greatly to our 
present knowledge. 


THE obelisk lies in a quarry on the south- 
east side of the mediaeval Arab cemetery, 
being about a quarter of an hour's drive 
from the Cataract Hotel. The best time for 
visiting it is either early in the morning or just 
before sunset, as it is at these times that the 
guide-lines on the upper surface of the obelisk 
and the curious structure of the trench surround- 
ing it are most clearly visible. 

The best general view is obtained by passing 
over the new retaining wall at the butt, and 
thence up past the vertical face of rock to the 
hill above it. Even from there, owing to fore- 
shortening, it is difficult to realise the enormous 
size of the monument, which is one-third as 
high again as the largest obelisk in Karnak, 
and more than triple the weight. 

Its complete dimensions are as follows : — 

137 feet. 

Length . . 


Pyramidion base 

Pyramidion height 

Weight (if it had been extracted) 

13 feet 9 inches. 
8 feet 2 inches. 

14 feet 9 inches. 
,168 tons. 

Photographs of the obehsk from the tip and 
butt are given in figs. 3 and 4, and a plan of the 
quarry, with sections, in fig. 7, p. 38. From 
the latter it will be seen that the impression 



gained from the ground, that the obelisk is 
abnormally thick for its length, is incorrect. 

It is fortunate that, in this small quarry, we 
can see so many different examples of the methods 
of the old workmen. At B, fig. 22 (shown 
close in fig. 8), we see examples of the action of 
ancient wedges and chisels, showing how easily 
the Egyptians could cut granite. It appears 
that all this wedging was with the object of 
removing the rock to let the tip of the obelisk 
pass when it was rolled out of the quarry. At 
A and C, fig. 7, p. 38, we can see modern chisel- 
dressing and what is probably a more recent 
method of using the wedge, which is by cutting 
a long channel instead of a series of small slots. 
Granite, rotted by the action of fire, can be 
picked up almost anywhere in the quarry; 
test-shafts, sunk early in the work to study the 
quahty of the granite, can be seen at C and D 
in fig. 7, and the first can even now be traced 
up to the original surface of the quarry. The 
trench, by means of which it was intended to 
separate the obelisk from the rock, is another 
and unique example of the ancient method of 
quarrying, and is discussed in Chapter IV. The 
vertical face of rock above the obelisk is nothing 
but the interior wall of another perimeter-trench, 
from before which a monument— possibly an 
obehsk— has been removed (fig. 18, p. 50). On 
this face we have the records of the work of the 
various shifts employed (fig. 13, P- 44 and p. 46). 
Neither this nor the obelisk-trench show how 
the monuments were to be detached from below, 

(Page 25.) 


{Page 25.) 



the one since a sufficient depth had not been 
reached, the other because the bed has been 
removed ; but so that nothing may be lacking, 
above the quarry-face there still remains the 
bed from which a monument of about 23 feet 
long has been taken. We could wish for a 
larger monument from which we might study 
the under-cutting, since what applies to a 
medium-sized block does not always apply to 
those of very large size ; but we must be grateful 
for what we have. 

As to the date of the obelisk, there is very 
little indication of it ; since it was a failure, it 
was in nobody's interest to record it. It may 
have been of the time of Queen Hatshepsowet 
(i.e., about 1500 B.C.), since large obelisks seem 
to have been the rule in her time. Further, the 
outline of a smaller obelisk drawn upon the 
surface of the large one (figs. 6 and 7), which 
can be well seen just after sunrise, is of almost 
exactly the same dimensions as that now known 
as the Lateran obelisk at Rome, the work of 
Tuthmosis III, her co-regent and successor. 
These evidences of date should, however, be 
accepted with a good deal of caution. 

The obelisk was abandoned owing to fissures 
in the granite, as the possibility of erecting a 
very large obelisk depends entirely on the rock 
being sound, particularly near the middle (p. 75). 
Here, although the granite is of extremely good 
quality, it is by no means flawless, and from the 
very outset of the work the cracks and fissures 
seem to have given the ancient engineers a 


great deal of anxiety. Though parting fairly 
evenly under the action of wedges, the natural 
fissures in the granite are most erratic ; a small 
fissure in one level or position may, in a couple 
of metres, become a gaping crack into which 
one could insert the blade of a knife ; con- 
versely, what appears to be a deep fissure may 
disappear at a lower level. Hence each crack 
had to be rigorously examined to see its probable 
effect on the completed obelisk. The methods 
by which this examination is carried out are 
described on page 37. 

Fig. 7 (p. 38) is a plan, with sections, of the 
obehsk, and shows all the fissures (lettered a,b, c, 
&c.), and nearly all the guide-lines (indicated by 
Greek letters). These show clearly that attempt 
after attempt was made, by reducing the size 
of the proposed obelisk, to obtain one in which 
the granite was free from flaws. 

For those who wish to examine the history 
of these attempts in greater detail the following 
notes may be of service. Very early in the work 
— almost after the roughing-out was finished — 
it was found that fissure 0, which cuts off the 
corner of the obelisk, necessitated reducing its 
length from the butt end. It was therefore 
reduced 4 cubits, or 6 feet 10 inches, and a black 
line (tt) drawn across the top surface of the 
obelisk and down the sides to mark off the 
reduction. The depth at which the trench was 
abandoned at the butt shows how early it was 
reaUsed that a length of 137 feet was impossible. 
Almost as soon as this had been done it was 



(Paga 36.) 

I {Pages 27 and 29.) 


found that fissures a, b, and c necessitated 
shortening the obeUsk from this end also. The 
lines c K X are the successive proposals for 
reducing the length of the shaft in order to obtain 
a flawless piece. Fissure c, however, showed 
clearly that the pyramidion must be kept quite 
clear of it, since it widens as it goes deeper. 
Fissures j, k, I and in would have made the 
quarry (or south) side of the obelisk liable to 
split, so in a last attempt to obtain a perfect 
piece of stone the centre line 77 was shifted to 0, 
and a very much smaller obelisk set out from it. 
This, as has been noted before, is almost exactly 
the size of the Lateran obelisk. Even this 
scheme did not escape the fissures, since at p 
there is a large one, running right into the obelisk, 
which would make it unsound at its most 
vulnerable point, the centre. I have no doubt 
that the obelisk was abandoned owing to fissure p. 

It may be of interest to the reader to compare 
the sizes and weights of some of the best -known 
obelisks. Those marked with an asterisk are 
scaled off photographs, making slight allowances 
for foreshortening. (See p. 30.) 

It is perhaps no more than a coincidence that 
the outline for the Aswan " last attempt " has 
a base of exactly the same size as that of the 
fragment before Pylon VII at Karnak, namely, 
10-3 feet, from which M. G. Legrain, the late 
Director of Works, deduced a height of 124 feet 
(37-77 metres). He assumed that the taper 
would be the same as that of Queen Hatshep- 
sowet's obelisk at Karnak, which, as a matter 


of fact, is less than all others, thus making the 
height greater than it would be with the average 
taper. Last year a fragment of the companion 
obelisk was found, from which it can be estimated 
accurately that the base of the pyramidion was 
2- 08 metres or 6-8 feet, which is very close to 
the Aswan outline. 









(see foot- 
note 2). 





Aswan (later pre 
ject) . . . 
Hatshepsowet . 









































New Yorki. . 
London 1 
Tuthmosis I 

* After Gorringe, Egyptian Obelisks. 

' By taper I mean the length of the shaft in which one unit 
decrease in width is observed. 

All over the quarries at Aswan, and especially 
round the obelisk, may be seen hundreds of 
balls — some whole and some broken — of a very 
tough greenish-black stone known as dolerite, 
which occur naturally in some of the valleys in 
the eastern desert. It is a curious but incon- 
testable fact that not only were the faces of 
monuments dressed by means of these balls — 
which has been long known — but that they were 
used for " cutting " out large monuments from 


the rock. In other words, they are the tools of 
the quarrymen. 

On the face of the high rock C (in fig. 22, 
p. 60), nearest the obehsk, are two inscriptions, 
and traces of others now barely legible. One 
reads, in the Greek character : — 



" Am . . . Sabinianos (and) Serapeion (sons) 
of Ursus." These are Greek forms of Latin 
names, probably those of early visitors to this 
quarry. Close to this inscription there is another 
name EPMEINOC, Ermeinos, cut into the face 
of the rock. 

Two large embankments, dating from ancient 
times, may be seen close to the quarry ; one 
leads westwards from the quarry above the 
obelisk, and another of gigantic size leads from 
the low desert about 200 yards east of the obelisk 
up to the quarries on the high desert. This can 
be seen even from the Grenfell Tombs across the 
river. Neither of these embankments appears 
to have any connection with the great obelisk. 


IN the following chapters we will endeavour, 
by deduction from the facts observed, and 
from ancient records, to ascertain every step 
in the history of an obelisk from the moment 
when the ancient engineers arrived at Aswan, 
from whence all the obelisks come, to the 
moment when it is standing upright before the 
pylon in the temple. 

Where the evidence is insufficient, as in the 
case of the details of the huge transport boats, 
we will merely record the meagre facts which 
have come down to us, as it would be unwise 
to credit the Egyptians, in order to explain a 
difficult point, with appliances or any know- 
ledge which we are not certain that they 

At Aswan the surface of the granite consists 
of huge boulders, some quite large enough to 
provide a door-jamb or even a shrine, but none 
which could possibly furnish a moderate-sized 
obelisk. It must have required great experience 
to judge whether there was likely to be a long, 
flawless piece at a moderate depth. Whether 
test-shafts were sunk to examine the quality 
of the granite in all deep work I do not know, 
but I think it most probable, though in my 
superficial survey of the quarries I have not 



found any examples besides the two in the 
obehsk quarry (fig. 7, at C and D). 

The quickest and most economical way of 
removing the top layers of the stratum is by 
burning fires against the rock, which causes it 
to break up very easily, especially if water is 
poured on it while it is still hot — a method used 
in India at the present day. There is a good 
deal of evidence to show that the Egyptians 
used this method, and it seems that the fires 
must have been of papyrus reeds, which at that 
time probably grew abundantly here just as it 
infests certain parts of the upper reaches of the 
Nile now. There are indications that these fires 
were banked with bricks against the surface 
to be destroyed. Traces of burning are seen at 
A and B (fig. 18, p. 50), and burnt granite can 
be picked up almost anywhere. It may be 
remarked here that the burnt granite must be 
distinguished from the weathered granite and that 
decomposed by the ferruginous layers in the 
stratum, which are likely to be confused with it. 

In the actual obelisk quarry, wedge-marks 
are seen only at one place. The large blocks 
removed by a series of wedges acting in a channel 
instead of in slots are almost certainly of a later 
date than that of the obelisk. The (now) 
entrance to the trench is also a later piece of 
work, as the fine chisel-dressing is of the modern 
type, and I even obtained a block from here 
which had a hole " jumped " for blasting with 
gunpowder. Although so few wedge-marks have 
been found in the work on the obelisk, I believe 


that they were freely used when necessary ; 
where a large block could fall away from the 
parent rock, wedges were probably more quick 
than burning. They can be seen in thousands 
all over the quarries. They are usually driven 
from the top downwards, but some may be seen 
which have acted horizontally and some even 
from below. It has been asserted that the 
wedges themselves were of wood and made to 
expand by wetting them. Without wishing to 
deny that the Egyptians knew and used this 
method, I will merely observe that the taper 
of the slots seems so great, and the sides of the 
slots so smooth, that there would be a great 
tendency for the wedges to jump out after 
wetting rather than exert their pressure ; another 
point is that it would be a somewhat difficult 
matter to wet a horizontal wedge, and still more 
difficult to do so from below. I am inclined to 
think that the normal method was to use metal — 
perhaps iron — wedges, with thin metal plates 
between the wedge and the stone which are 
now known as " feathers." The hammers may 
well have been of stone after the fashion of the 
Old Kingdom hammer from Gizeh (of black 
granite), shown in fig. lo, p. 42. The method 
used nowadays is to make, with a steel chisel, 
a series of small holes along the line where 
fracture is required, and by inserting small, 
fat, steel punches in them and giving them in 
turn, up and down the line, moderately hard 
blows with a sledge-hammer. In the clearance 
of the obelisk some hundreds of large blocks 


had to be broken up by this means before we 
could conveniently remove them. These had 
apparently been thrown down from the quarry 
above. Ancient iron wedges, perhaps dating 
to 800 B.C., are given in Petrie, Tools and 
Weapons, Plate XIII, B 16, 17. Some enormous 
wedge-slots may be seen at the top of the rock 
in fig. 8, which may well have been cut for use 
with expanding wooden wedges. 

Having reduced the granite until they were 
satisfied that it was suitable for extracting an 
obelisk, and before dressing the surface in any 
way, they began to sink squarish holes round 
what was to be the perimeter or outUne of the 
obelisk. This may well have been measured 
out by cords stretched over the rough surface. 
The traces of these pits can be best seen in the 
further trench in fig. 7, p. 38, no. 3. The 
method of making these pits is discussed in the 
next chapter. There are plenty of indications that 
they were begun before the surface of what was 
to be the obelisk had been made smooth. For 
reasons which will appear later, the work on 
the pits progressed a good deal more slowly 
than that on the trench, so that, by the time 
the work had reached the stage at which it was 
abandoned, the trench workers had almost 
caught up with those engaged on the pits. Their 
object appears to have been to obtain as much 
knowledge of the state of the granite below as 
possible, especially as regards any horizontal 
fissures which might be met with, unsuspected 
from above. 


The next step, an extremely laborious process, 
was to render the surface flat. This was done 
entirely by bruising with the balls of dolerite 
which have been found in such profusion in 
the quarry. Examples of unfinished top-dressing 
can be seen at the pyramidion and near the butt, 
where the work was abandoned early (fig. 5, 
p. 28). Whether these balls were used by 
hand, or shod in some way on rammers, is 
doubtful. It seems likely that they were so 
mounted and worked by several men, as such 
blows were dealt that the balls were sometimes 
split in two — almost an impossibility by hand. 

A smooth straight surface along and across 
what was to be the upper face of the obelisk 
was almost certainly obtained by the use of 
what we now call " boning-rods." These are a 
set of pieces of wood of exactly equal length, 
now usually made T-shaped. One rod is held 
upright at each end of the surface it is required 
to straighten. A man standing at one end can, 
if he sight along the top of these rods, see if a 
third rod, placed somewhere between them, is 
in a line with them or not. Thus the surface 
can be tested anywhere along the obelisk and 
corrected until it is quite flat. Boning-rods of 
small size, used for dressing moderately large 
blocks, have actually been found, and are pub- 
lished in Petrie, Tools and Weapons, Plate XLIX, 
B 44-46. These measure only about 3 inches 
high, and their tops were connected by a string. 
In the case of such a monument as an obelisk 
the string would sag and produce a concave 


error. The visual method, quite as simple and 
obvious, seems a legitimate assumption. 

The accuracy in the work of obelisks is not of 
a very high order, unlike the tremendous 
accuracy seen in the Pyramids of Gizeh and 
certain Old and Middle Kingdom monuments. 
An error in the sides of the base is quite usual, 
sometimes amounting to several inches. The 
two obeUsks which stood before the temple of 
Luxor were even different in height (see dimen- 
sions of Luxor and Paris obelisks on p. 30), 
It is well worth while to examine the faces of the 
Karnak and Mataria obelisks at the moment 
when they receive the sun's rays ; it is then 
that one can see how considerable are the errors 
in flatness. In the former obelisk faint traces 
of the hammer-dressing, such as is seen in fig. 5, 
can be observed. 

In the Luxor obelisk which was removed to 
Paris there appears to have been a convexity, 
intentionally left on the front face, to counteract 
the effect of concavity which is noticed in some 
high monuments. This was the regular practice 
in the case of Greek pillars, and is known as 
*' entasis." I have not been able to trace it in 
any of the Karnak obelisks nor in the unfinished 
obelisk at Aswan. 

As soon as a crack, fissure or even unusual 
discoloration appeared in any part of the obelisk, 
it had to be carefully examined to see how far 
it went, and whether it became wider as the 
work deepened. Three methods of examination 
are to be seen on the obelisk. The normal 


method was to hammer out a depression with 
the ubiquitous dolerite balls at what seemed to 
be the end of the fissure, leaving a small oblong 
fillet so as to compare the appearance of the 
granite at the surface with that at the bottom 
of the depression. These examinations can be 
seen in fig. 7 at j, k, n and p, n being also shown 
in fig. 4, p. 26. Another method of testing 
fissures is found at the base of the pyramidion ; 
this consists of cutting, with a metal tool, an 
oblong hole, tapering sharply downwards, over 
the fissure. Here it was done to see the extent 
of fissures h and d. It is possible that this 
method was used when it was desired to save 
time, perhaps on the occasion of an inspection. 
The third method was to cut — and apparently 
polish — a deep narrow channel right along the 
fissure or discoloration. These channels are 
seen in fig. 7 at ^ and h, and in fig. 6, p. 28. 
It has been asserted that these channels are later 
attempts to cut up the obelisk for monumental 
stone, but this is not the case, as g is clearly a 
continuation of fissure h, and h could never have 
been used for detaching a piece from the parent 
rock. If one follows i down the north face of 
the obelisk three red lines can be seen which 
were drawn by the foreman for the guidance of 
the stonecutter. 

It is rather difficult to say whether there is a 
difference of date between the examinations by 
channels and the others ; it depends on the 
relative dates of the large obelisk and the last 
attempt. I do not think that there is any great 


difference. It is clear, however, that the channels 
belong to the latter work. The probable explana- 
tion of them is that they are over discolorations 
in the granite, recognised as such and left by 
the original workmen. 

Before we can say that we understand every 
step of the work so far, we have to inquire into 
the nature of the tools with which the wedge- 
slots were cut. This is a problem that has not 
been solved with certainty. Not only could the 
Egyptians cut granite with chisels, but they could 
cut even harder stones, such as diorite and quart- 
zite. Though iron was known to them from 
the earliest times (but used rather sparingly), 
there is no evidence at all that steel was used ; 
all the Egyptian words for metals have been 
accounted for, none of which could be applied 
to it. Another indication that steel was un- 
known is that razors, which are often found, 
are always of copper ; had steel been known 
I think that razors would have surely been made 
of it. Copper, with 2 per cent, alloy, can be 
brought by hammering to the hardness of mild 
steel, and it seems within the bounds of possi- 
bility that the Egyptians could bring it to an 
even greater hardness. 

Wilkinson, in his Manners and Customs II, 
page 255, cites an ancient chisel where the 
malletted end was worn by the blows, but where 
the cutting edge was sharp. This may well be 
explained by the fact that it had just been 
re-sharpened, but I have myself seen a chisel 
with the edge split like a modern machine-tool. 


I was unable to purchase this specimen, but I 
tried the hardness with a knife and it was 
obvious that any great temper that it may once 
have possessed had disappeared. An examina- 
tion of the structure of ancient copper chisels 
shows conclusively that the copper had never 
been raised to the annealing temperature. 

It has been asserted that if the Egyptians 
had known steel it would have perished by 
oxydisation. This is not borne out by excava- 
tions, as many iron tools have been found, such 
as wedges, halberds, etc., which are hardly 
rusted at all. In some soils almost anything 
will be preserved ; in others everything, except 
perhaps the pottery, perishes. An examination 
of such fragments of iron tools as can be spared 
might give us some definite information as to 
whether any of them were of steel and so settle 
a vexed question. I have spent hours trying to 
cut granite with iron, copper, and even dolerite 
chisels, and though granite can be cut — ^in a 
manner of speaking — with all of them I am 
convinced that the Egyptians used a much harder 
tool. There is still a great divergence of opinion 
on this subject, which is best left open until 
further evidence is forthcoming. 


IN this chapter we are concerned with the 
formation of the obehsk and detaching it 
from the surrounding rock for transport. 
The surface of the rock is smooth and the work 
on the pits around the obehsk is well under weigh. 

The next step seems to have been to mark 
on the surface of the rock the outline of the pro- 
posed obehsk. This must have been done by 
the normal Egyptian method of stretching a 
cord covered with ochre or lampblack over the 
proposed centre line and allowing the cord, 
when correctly placed, to touch the stone. The 
lines were next made permanent by scratching 
them with a metal tool. A pot containing red 
ochre was actually found during the clearance 
of the obelisk. The ochre or lampblack was 
probably mixed, before use, with acacia gum. 

From this centre line, by measuring off, the 
corners of the pyramidion and base were cor- 
rectly marked and joined up. 

Let us examine the structure of the interior 
of the trench ; we are struck with the absence 
of any marks of wedges or chisels. The ancient 
chisels leave traces which are easily recognisable 
(figs. 8 and 9), but here we have the effect of a 
series of parallel, vertical " cuts " just as if the 
rock had been extracted with a gigantic cheese- 
scoop. A further feature of the trench is that 



there are no corners — everything is rounded. 
These pecuharities are seen, not only in the 
trench, but in the pits within the trench and 
even the test-shafts C and D (fig. 7). The only 
tools which could produce this effect are the 
dolerite balls of which we have already made 
mention. The trench and pits were therefore 
not cut out, but rather bashed out. These balls 
measure from 5 to 12 inches in diameter, their 
weights averaging 12 pounds. They are of almost 
natural occurrence in some of the valleys in the 
eastern desert, having been shaped by the action 
of water in geological ages. A more economical 
or efficient tool can hardly be conceived. I have 
buried some hundreds of these behind the 
retaining wall, as even their size and weight did 
not protect them from souvenir-hunters. 

The blows with these balls were struck verti- 
cally downwards, often with such force as to 
split them in two. This suggests that they 
were shod on to rammers, as it is almost impos- 
sible to break them by hand. The only way I 
succeeded in doing so was by pitching one 
down from a height on to a pile of others. This 
is further borne out by the fact that the wear 
on the balls is not even over the whole surface, 
but appears in patches, showing that they were 
used in one position until the bruising surface had 
become flat, and then changed to another position. 

If we enter the trench we see that, down the 
division between each concave " cut," a red line 
has been drawn, apparently by means of a 
plumb-bob with its string dipped in ochre. 

(Page 41.) 

Fig. 9.— rough CHISEL-DRESSING ON 

(Page 41.; 



(Page 34.) 

(Pages 42 and 43.) 




These red lines are not continuous, but have 
been projected down from time to time as the 
bottom of the trench became deeper. The 
width between successive lines averages 11-77 
inches, there being very little variation between 
examples. These divisions seem to be feet. 
The main measurements of the obelisk are based 
on the royal cubit of 20-71 inches. Whether 
this foot is intended to be on the same system 
as the royal cubit I am not certain. The follow- 
ing table shows that it can be referred to it 
with tolerable closeness : — 


.. (I) .. 

•74 inches 

Palm . . 

.. (4) .. 

.. 2-95 

Foot . , 

.. (16) .. 

.. II-8I 

Common cubit 

.. (24) .. 

.. 17-71 .. 

Royal cubit . . 

.. (28) .. 

. . 20-67 „ 

Looking down the trench (fig. 11) we see that 
it is divided into a right and left half ; further, 
from the upper quarry-face (fig. 13, p. 44), it 
can be seen that the vertical measuring " chains *' 
described on page 46 only occur every two 
feet-divisions along the trench. The most 
reasonable explanation of this seems to be that 
each man or party of men were given two feet 
of trench as their task, and that they worked it 
from each side of the trench alternately. Some 
130 men could work in the bottom of the trench 
at the same time, possibly assisted by 260 more 
working the rammers (p. 42) from above. 
When the granite is broken up by means of the 
dolerite balls or " pounders " it comes away 
in the form of powder and not as flakes. If the 
powder is not removed every few minutes, it 


soon forms a cushion, and the effect of the 
blows is reduced almost to nil. Handing the 
powder out of the trench would be a great waste 
of time, so it seems most likely that it was 
brushed on to the part of the task which was not 
being pounded ; that is, each man worked on 
his task in four positions, with his back to, and 
facing, the obelisk on his right and left foot of 
trench. There is only one way by which such a 
large number of men can work in so confined a 
space without interfering with one another, 
and that is by making each man work in the 
same relative position on his task, and when 
a change in the position is required, by letting 
it be simultaneous. We have no means of 
knowing at what intervals of time these changes 
were made. 

Nowadays work with rammers or mindalah's, 
as the modern Egyptians call them, is always 
done to a sort of chanty, and there is ample 
evidence that the ancients made similar use of 
songs to help them in their labours. We can 
easily picture some ancient, leather-lunged fore- 
man bawling out a prototype of the modern 
mindalah song : — 

(Chorus) Ya Sayyid hizz i/^-Hiiai 
(Foreman) M' Is^iwdiria /«5A-Sheliai 

(Chorus) Ya Sayyid hizz t/-Hiiai 
(Foreman) Duqq' y' awl^d khabar eyb umm^l ? 

O Sayyid, brandish the Crescent I 
From Alexandria to the Cataract, 

O Sayyid, brandish the Crescent I 
Bash, boys, what's up with you ? 

* The curious fall of the beat may horrify the Arabic scholar, 
but this is the way I have so often heard it. 




















with 130 — perhaps 390 — men pounding out the 
beat. With a good chanter who can extem- 
porise rhyming hues full of highly-flavoured 
personahties, the work the Egyptian can do is 
little short of marvellous, but with a bad one 
the tune soon degenerates into a kind of andante 
religioso, resulting in remarks from the Director 
of Works of quite the reverse kind. This is, 
however, by the way. 

The average width of the trench is about 
2 feet 6 inches, and it is possible that the workmen 
were given a minimum width ; but this is not 
necessarily the case, as it would be false economy 
to make the trench too narrow, since the cramped 
position of the man in the trench would prevent 
him getting the best force in his blows, besides 
tending to make him pound his own toes instead 
of the rock. In some places the trench, after 
narrowing as it gets deeper, suddenly widens 
out again. I explain these narrowings — best 
seen at Z on fig. 7 — by the fact that the work 
of a particular shift was to end at that level, 
which they tried to reach quickly, knowing that 
others had to continue it. 

When one considers the cramped position 
of the men pounding out the pits along the line 
of the proposed trench in the initial stages of 
the work, it can easily be understood how soon 
the trench parties overhauled them (p. 35). 
The work on the original test-shafts must have 
been even slower still. 

As to the manner of measuring up the work, 
which was almost certainly done by forced 


labour — some sort of corvee perhaps — helped 
out by such troops and captives as were available, 
I am convinced that it was by piece and not by 
time. In the obelisk trench, the work appears 
to have been measured by the foreman with a 
scaled rod, from the various red and black 
horizontal lines seen in great profusion on the 
sides of the trench (for examples see fig. 7, 
no. 6). In the work on the monument which 
has been removed from before the upper quarry- 
face (fig. 13), it seems that the work was measured 
up after every two or three days' pounding from 


Fig. 14. Fir,. 15. Fig. 16. Fig. 17. 


the bottom of the trench by means of a rod of 
three cubits length, and the position of the top 
of the rod marked with a short horizontal red 
line, which was connected to the previous mark 
by an inverted Y. This seems the only explana- 
tion of the curious red chains seen faintly in the 
middle of the two-foot tasks. The half-effaced 
chains higher up seem to be the records of the 


preceding shifts. These appear to have been 
distinguished by short inscriptions scrawled by 
them in red paint. Most of these inscriptions 
are too faint to transcribe. Figs. 14-15, from 
the right of the chains in divisions VIII, IX and 
XII respectively, and fig. 17, from the left of 
the red chain of division VIII, are the most 
complete and clear, but they are too fragmentary 
to translate. They may originally have given 
some information as to the party engaged in 
their division. At the extreme left of the upper 
quarry-face there are traces of a hieratic inscrip- 
tion of two lines which I have not been able to 
decipher nor to photograph with any clearness. 
It is in black paint, and appears to begin with a 
date and to have a number in the middle, but 
does not give any royal name. 

It is rather tempting to see, in the black lines 
a and c (fig. 13) on the upper quarry-face, the 
top and bottom faces of a small obelisk with h 
as its centre line. If this is so, the taper is i in 
17-5, which is sharper than other obelisks. 
Line c is very nearly level, and both h and c are 
divided into feet by short black vertical lines 
in the middle of the pounded-out grooves. The 
reason of this is not clear to me, neither have I 
been able to find any explanation of the red 
line d, which is separated from the line a by 
2 feet, nor for the eyes and other signs which 
occur at various places on the face of the rock. 
The red nefer sign under the eye just after 
division XIII is usually used to mean "ground 
level " in other quarries, but it certainly has 


not that meaning here, though it may well 
indicate that line c, at the top of the sign, is 
meant to be level. 

To return to the trench, it is interesting to 
speculate on the amount of time which was 
expended in making it. To ascertain this, 
I tried pounding for an hour by hand at various 
times on one of the quarters of a two-foot task, 
and I found that I had reduced the level by about 
5 milHmetres {'2 inches) average. With practice 
I could perhaps have done more. Let us assume 
that the ancients could extract 8 millimetres 

.3/: (3' 15 inches) per hour from a similar area ; then 
the time taken to make the trench must be 
that taken to do the deepest part. In this 
obelisk the trench would have to be 165 inches 
to make it of square cross-section and we must 
allow at least 40 inches for under-cutting (p. 49), 
making a total depth of trench required of 205 

'?'" inches. Supposing that 3*15 inches were 
extracted from a quarter of each party's task 


a: per hour, it will require 3.3-^x12x30 ^^ ^'^ 

months of twelve hours per day. The under- 
cutting would have taken at least as long again, 
even though it could be done from both sides 
at once. 

Before leaving the subject of the time taken, 
let us apply the results obtained from my 
pounding experiments to the obelisk of Queen 
Hatshepsowet at Karnak, of which the measure- 
ments are given on page 30. To the base 
measurement of 94 inches we must add, say, 


30 inches for under-cutting, making a total 
depth required of 124 inches. Calculating in 
the same way as before, we find the time neces- 
sary would be 4-4 months, working twelve hours 
a day. For detaching it from below we may add 
a similar period, making 8-8 months. 

It is recorded by the Queen that ** they are of 
one block of enduring granite, without seam or 
joining. My Majesty exacted work thereon 
from the year 15, the first of the sixth month 
until the year 16, the last day of the twelfth 
month, making seven months of exaction in the 
quarry. "^ If the men were worked in continuous 
shifts, this work could have easily been done 
in the time she mentions, even if the Egyptians 
were not able to break up the granite at a much 
greater rate than I was able to do. At the foot 
of the standing obehsk at Karnak, where her 
inscription appears, she implores us not to say 
" it is a He I " but rather " how like her ! " The 
calculation above at any rate tends to give her 
the benefit of the doubt. 

The only evidence we have as to how the 
obelisk was separated from the rock beneath 
it is to be found above the upper quarry-face, 
where there is a bed from which a monument 
22 feet long has been removed (shown in fig. ig, 
p. 50). The bottom of the trench around it 
can still be traced, and the two-foot divisions are 

^ The months refer to the absolute year. The regnal year 
15 happens to end in the middle of the period referred to. 
Hence the apparent error in the number of months stated. 
It is a quite correct total. For complete translation see 
page loa. 



of the same size as those of the great obehsk. 
Here it is quite clear that the detaching from 
below was done also by pounding. In the work 
below the monument, though the two-foot 
divisions of each party's task are rigidly main- 
tained, the sub-divisions into a right and left 
half have become very irregular, which is what 
would be expected in work under such condi- 
tions. A curious fact is that the monument 
has been snapped off when the workers on each 
side had nearly met. Whether this was inten- 
tional or not cannot be known, but it seems 
more likely that it was accidental. With regard 
to a large obelisk, I think we may safely say that 
it was neither snapped off its bed nor removed 
by the action of wedges from both sides. In a 
very long monument, the strains set up by the 
uneven expansions of the wedges, some biting 
true and some slipping out and not acting at 
all, would probably crack the monument in 
two, especially in the case of an obelisk like this, 
which could only safely stand the strains due 
to its own weight (p. 75). It is fairly safe to 
assume that all large monuments were com- 
pletely detached, perhaps by driving a series of 
galleries through first, packing them well by 
wood or stone as near the centre of the monu- 
ment as possible, and then removing the 
remainder of the rock. There is no evidence at 
all as to the nature of the packing. 

At the west end of the ridge from which the 
small monument has been removed there is a 
short inscription in red paint. It seems to begin 

(Pages 26 and 33.) 


Fig. 19.— bed IROM WHICH A S.MAEL MONU- 
(Page 49.) 


with the words " The work of," followed by a 
group of signs which are not intelligible to me. 
It seems that the last group of signs are not 
hieroglyphs at all. Such illegible groups are not 
rare in quarries. 

During the clearance of the obeHsk, part of a 
letter on a piece of pottery was found. Though 
extremely fragmentary, there was a remark 
on it about " beating " the stone. This may 
well refer to the pounding process by which the 
monuments were extracted. 



IN the last chapter we discussed the methods 
by which the quarrying was performed. The 
next step was the removal of the obelisk from 
the quarry, and its transport to the river and 
thence by water to its destination. 

It might be remarked that the Aswan obelisk 
— the largest known — has not been transported, 
but I think we are justified in assuming that 
the man responsible for the work would never 
have begun on it had he not every reason to 
believe that he could carry it out. Judging 
from such sketches as have come down to us 
of the character of Egyptian kings, they were 
not likely to tolerate a failure, unless it was 
from some unavoidable cause. We must bear 
in mind, too, that the ancient engineers moved 
blocks as heavy as this obelisk, and even more 
unmanageable — the colossi of Amenophis III 
and the colossus of Ramesses II at Thebes. We 
shall, therefore, take the Aswan obeHsk as the 
basis of our speculations as, if we can account 
for every step in its history from the quarry to 
the temple, we can account for that of any other 
obelisk. The converse, reasoning from a small 
obelisk, would not necessarily be true. 

The obelisk, then, is lying on its packing 
surrounded by the trench, but detached from the 
parent rock. 



If we look at the surface of the rock outside 
the north (valley side) trench, we see that its 
level is the same as that of the surface of the 
obehsk. The parts A and B (fig. 7, p. 38) 
have most certainly been removed at a later 
date than the rest. It seems that a surface 
of rock, running continuously along the outside 
of the trench at the same level as that of the 
obelisk, was purposely left. It might be urged 
that this is merely the remainder of the flattened 
surface on which the obehsk was set out (p. 36). 
This may weU be the case, but if we consider 
in detail how the obelisk was to be got out of 
the pit in which it lies, factors arise which point 
to a very definite reason for leaving this surface 
as it now is. 

There are two methods by which the obelisk 
can be removed from its present position : one 
is by raising it, and the other is by removing 
the rock from in front of it ; sliding it out end- 
ways is impossible in this particular case. It 
may be mentioned here that to pull the obelisk 
over, on a level surface, would require some 
13,000 men, which I am convinced could not be 
put on ropes in the constricted area of the quarry. 
To roll it out as it is would require an enormous 
quantity of rock to be removed, and one would 
think that, if they intended to use this method, 
they would have begun to do so as soon as 
possible. The fact remains, however, that they 
have not begun to do this, though they are well 
on with the breaking up of the rock (B, fig. 22, 
p. 60) to let the tip of the obelisk pass out. 


This piece of rock is also to be seen in fig. 8, 
p. 42. 

A combination of both methods seems to 
have been intended, and the reason for leaving 
the north trench intact was for the use of large 
vertical levers. These would probably be tree- 
trunks, some two feet in diameter and 20 or 
more feet long, inserted, with suitable packing, 
in the trench, with many men pulling on ropes 
attached to the top of them. It seems that 
the workmen had begun to reduce the rock on 
the quarry side of the obelisk as well, so that 
levers could be used from there also. By using 
these levers from both sides of the obelisk in 
turn, it could be made to rock slightly backwards 
and forwards and gradually be raised by increas- 
ing the height of the packing below at each heave. 
By this means the base could be raised some 
8 feet above its present level, and the quantity 
of rock to be removed from in front of the 
obelisk greatly reduced in consequence. 

As to the numbers of levers needed ; it can 
easily be calculated that, if they used thirty 
20-foot tree-trunks at a leverage of six to one, 
with 50 men pulling on the ropes at the top of 
each, the obeHsk would move, and the wood — 
whether it was of fir, cypress or sycomore- 
fig — would not be unduly strained. This is a 
conservative figure, and I think it Ukely that 
they would have used much taUer trunks with 
at least 100 men pulling on each. On the further 
side of the obelisk, a comparatively small amount 
of rock would have to be removed in order to 


use the levers as, if they can move some 20 
degrees back from the vertical, a sufficient rise 
in that side of the obelisk could be obtained. 
As the base of the obelisk became higher, rock 
would have to be packed behind the levers, 
and on the valley side tliis would have to be 
very considerable, though with only 100 men 
per lever they could be used at a slope. 

As to the problem of packing the levers and 
keeping them steady, this is merely a matter 
of head-ropes and foot-ropes and could have 
been done in many ways. I do not propose to 
speculate on which particular method the 
Egyptians used, as there is no evidence on the 

Directly the obelisk had been raised as high 
as possible, the destruction of the rock in front 
of it would be done by wedging and burning, 
as described in Chapter III. I should think 
that it would be removed until there was a 
considerable slope downwards to the valley 
below, which would greatly reduce the number 
of men required to roll it. At the last heave 
of the levers from the valley side, the packing 
could be entirely withdrawn, and sand substi- 
tuted ; this could be gradually removed, and 
the obelisk allowed to settle down on to its edge 
and a great saving of men effected in this, its 
first and most difficult turn. By judiciously 
introducing a bank of sand where the middle 
of the face of the obelisk was to come, and 
by digging below its edge, the rolling could be 
made to approximate to that of a cylinder and 


its downward journey rendered comparatively 

The ropes for rolling the obelisk out would be 
passed round it and brought out to anchorages 
in front. I believe that 40 7j-inch palm ropes 
(or their equivalent), pulled by 6,000 men, would 
be sufficient to handle the obelisk in any stage 
of its removal down the valley. Such large 
ropes would have to be pulled by handling- 
loops. In the scene of the transport of a great 
winged bull at Nineveh, they can be seen 
passing over the men's shoulders, being attached 
at both ends to the main cable. In a photograph 
in Wonders of the Past, page 421 (Harmsworth 
Encyclopedias), these loops can be seen very 

The occurrence of levers is so rare that it has 
been doubted whether the Egyptians knew of 
them. I think that there is not the slightest 
doubt that they did know of them, as in the 
temples of the Theban area and in the temple 
of the third pyramid at Gizeh, one can see large 
blocks, undercut at various points along their 
length, obviously to take the points of levers. 
In a tomb at El-Bersheh {Annates du Service des 
Antiquitis, I, p. 28), an acacia branch, with 
its end cut to a chisel edge, was found, which 
must have been used to manipulate the lid of 
the sarcophagus. It might be asked why no 
very large levers have been found. The reason 
is that large baulks would not be abandoned in 
the quarry, but would be used until they were 
no longer sound, and then cut up and re-used 


for other purposes. Like timber baulks to-day, 
they were of considerable value, and not thrown 
away when a job was completed. The Assyrians, 
at any rate, knew them, for in a sculpture of 
about the Vlllth century B.C. there is a scene of 
men hauling along a colossal bull mounted on a 
sled running on rollers, with men overcoming the 
initial friction with levers from behind (Layard, 
Discoveries, Plates X-XVII). 

We know, from the celebrated sculpture at 
Der El-Bahari, that the obelisks of Queen 


■ ■ ■ '' ' ' 


Hatshepsowet were transported on sleds. Fig. 
20 is taken from the transport scene. It was 
probably done by the court artist from memory, 
and though the general impression is most likely 
correct, several of the details appear to be wrong. 
Thus he slurs over the manner in which the 
baulks of timber at the top of the obeUsk were 
attached to those on the sled, which must have 
been done by the known Egyptian method of 
the " Spanish windlass," that is, by passing 
ropes round corresponding baulks and tighten- 
ing them after the manner of a tourniquet 
(fig. 28, p. 70). The position of the hauling-rope 
in the centre of the obeUsk must also surely be 
wrong, as that would be the very worst position 
for pulling the obeHsk ; the rope would, of course, 


be attached to the sled, as it is shown in other 
similar scenes which have come down to us. 
It seems likely too that the obelisk was really 
on the sled the reverse way round (p. 70). The 
fact that the Der El-Bahari obelisks were mounted 
on sleds is no proof that all obelisks were so 
mounted for transport, but I think it most 
likely that they were, as without a sled it would 
be extremely difficult to attach ropes to the 
obelisk so as to be able to pull it lengthways ; 
further, a sled would be an excellent shock- 
absorber and would equahse the upward pressure 
of the rollers along the length of the obelisk. 
This is almost a necessity in such a long obehsk 
as this, as, if it came down on a roller near its 
centre with a jerk, it would snap in two (p. 75). 
Next comes the vexed question whether rollers 
were used in conjunction with the sled or not. 
It has been assumed by certain writers, because 
in the tomb scene of the transport of the 60-ton 
statue of Dhuthotpe at El-Bersheh (Lepsius, 
Denkmdler, II, 134, and p. 59) the sled was 
merely pulled over a wetted track, that aU blocks 
were so transported, whatever their size. When 
it is reahsed that it took 172 men — who would 
pull about 8 tons — to haul this statue, one 
hesitates to assert that a block of 1,170 tons 
was so handled. Caution is very necessary, but 
to deny that rollers were known in Egypt, as 
some writers would have us do, is either to 
invite far less justifiable assumptions, or to bring 
all reasoning to a standstill. The 227-ton 
obelisk now in Paris, when it was being pulled 


up a slight slope, mounted on a sled or " cradle " 
sliding over a greased way, required a pull of 
94 tons. To handle the Aswan obelisk in this 
way would take at least 11,000 men, which is 


outside the bounds of possibility, if only from 
considerations of space. Small rollers have 
actually been found, but no large ones, for reasons 
already given for the absence of large levers. 
It is rather difficult to obtain data as to the size 


of rollers required for such an obelisk as that of 
Aswan. The only information I can give is 
that the top of the fallen obelisk of Queen 
Hapshepsowet rests on 8-inch diameter pitch- 
pine rollers, spaced about a yard apart, and 
there is no sign of any crushing, though they 
have been there for many years. The worst 
pressure at that spacing which they would have 
to bear at the butt-end of the Aswan obelisk, 
if it were placed on them for transport, would 
not exceed ii times the amount they bear now. 

The process of putting the obelisk on to its 
sled and rollers must have been something of 
this kind : at the foot of the slope leading down 
from the quarry the sled — mounted on its rollers 
and track baulks — would be buried, sighting- 
poles being put in to mark the position of its 
axis. The obehsk would then be rolled down 
the slope until it lay exactly over the sled, and 
the sand dug away till the obelisk settled down 
on to it. After digging the sled clear, the journey 
to the river could be begun, the track being 
packed as hard as possible, most probably with 
baulks of timber laid down lengthways on which 
the rollers could run. The route for the Aswan 
obelisk would almost certainly have been north- 
eastwards along the track of the old Barrage 
railway (D-A, fig. 22, and fig. 26, p. 70), until 
it joined the embankment F-E which leads to 
the river. Its exact point of arrival at the Nile 
is hidden by the modern town. 

On the details of the enormous barges on which 
obehsks are known to have been transported, 

U\ 111 


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I have to be more than vague, as the only scene 
of a boat sufficiently large to carry an obelisk 
is that on the Der El-Bahari sculpture, where 
the two obelisks — probably those now seen at 
Kamak — are both placed butt to butt on the 
same barge ! The boat used must have been 
over 200 feet in length. Another great barge 
is mentioned (p. 94) measuring 207 feet long by 
69 feet broad, which carried the two obehsks 

Fig. 23.— cargo-boat, NEW KINGDOM. 

of Tuthmosis I, and we have a record of a third 
boat in the Old Kingdom, made by one Uni of 
the Vlth dynasty, which was 102 feet long, and 
which took only 17 days to build (Breasted, 
Ancient Records, I, 322, and II, 105). 

Mr. Somers Clarke, in Ancient Egypt, 1920, 
Parts I and 2 (Macmillan ; 2S. quarterly) , has 
collected all known facts on the construction 
of ancient boats. He admits that the details 
of the very large ships are quite unknown, as the 
Der El-Bahari boat already referred to is only, 
as it were, an impressionist view, and from 
it we can learn little of its internal structure. 



The ancient boats in the Cairo Museum are only 
of quite small size ; these are built without ribs, 
but whether the obelisk-barges were of this type 
also is uncertain. The Der El-Bahari boats are 
stiffened by means of a series of ropes attached 
to the bow and stern, passing over vertical 
supports at two points in the body of the boat, 
thus forming what is now known as a queen- 
truss or hog-frame. This method of stiffening is 
well shown in figs. 23 and 24. It is better to 
leave the question of the large boats until further 
evidence is forthcoming, but before doing so I 
will give a passage in Mr. Clarke's article which 
is of interest to the general reader. He says, 
quoting from a letter from the late Mr. Francis 
Elgar, Director of Naval Construction to the 
British Government : " The two great obelisks 
of Karnak, 97 feet 6 inches long, could be carried 
on a boat about 220 feet long and 69 feet beam, 
upon a draught of water of about 4 feet 6 inches 
or not exceeding 5 feet." Some of the large 
Cook's boats approach this length, but their 
beam is very different. Mr. Clarke remarks 
later : " Whence came the necessary knowledge, 
at what period did the people begin to accumu- 
late the experience, which culminated in their 
power to deal with immense weights . . . not only 
in the Xllth and XVIIIth dynasties, but in the 
IlIrd and IVth ? " 

It is a very great pity that the scenes of the 
transport by boat of Hatshepsowet's obelisks 
are not accompanied by a real descriptive text. 
All that we can learn from the inscriptions is 


that the boat was built of sycomore-fig, and 
the fact that a whole army was mustered at 
Elephantine, or Aswan, to load the obelisks on 
to it. There is plenty also about the rejoicings 
of the priests, marines and recruits over their 
arrival at Thebes. The scenes themselves, how- 
ever, show us that the obelisk-barge was towed 
by three rows of oared tow-boats, which were 
arranged nine in a row, each row being led by 
a pilot-boat. Near the great barge are three 
boats escorting it, in which religious ceremonies 
are apparently being performed. We see the 
troops on the shore waiting to do the unloading, 
and an offering being performed by officials and 
priests. The name of the King, Tuthmosis HI, 
is mentioned in the laudatory sentences after 
the Queen. In the view of the great barge, 
which is badly damaged, the obelisks are placed 
high up on her deck. This is possibly a trick 
by the artist so that they may be visible. 

There is only one practical way of putting a 
large obelisk into a barge, and that is by getting 
the boat as close to the bank as possible, building 
an embankment round and over it, and pulling 
the obeHsk directly over the boat and letting 
it down into its place by digging out the filling 
from beneath it. Possibly a new set of baulks 
and rollers were already prepared inside the 
barge. The boat would then be dug clear and 
the journey by water made. Though I see no 
reason to suppose that the rise and fall of the 
Nile were used for the loading and unloading 
of the boat, it is more than probable that it 


was arranged that the water journey was made 
at high Nile to minimise the risk of running 

The unloading would be a rather simpler 
matter. An embankment would be constructed 
from the shore to the boat (and around it), but 
only reaching to the level of the rollers of the 
obelisk. The boat would be destroyed — or at 
least the prow removed — and the journey con- 
tinued towards the temple. 


THE ancient method of setting up a large 
obelisk has been a fruitful subject for 
speculation for generations, and many 
extraordinary theories have been put forward 
by archaeologists, engineers, architects, and that 
bane of the serious student, the reckless exponent 
of the occult. 

In mediaeval and modern times, the erection 
of an obelisk has always involved capstans 
or winches actuating a system of pulleys, and 
in most cases a " jack " — either hydraulic or 
screw — has had to be called into use. It is 
generally admitted that the Egyptians were 
not familiar either with the screw-jack, capstan, 
winch or the system of pulleys arranged to give 
a mechanical advantage ; it is even debatable 
whether they knew the simple pulley. 

Sheers (see fig. 41, p. 116) were possibly 
known in principle, though we have no proof 
of it, but the erection of an obelisk by this means 
must involve the use of the capstan or winch. 

This leaves levers as the only source of power 
except the employment of large numbers of 
men. We have therefore to try and explain 
how the large obelisks were erected by these 
means only. 

Two theories stand out as being reasonable, 
though both leave a good deal unexplained. 



One is that the edge of the obeHsk was placed 
so as to engage in the narrow notch which always 
runs along one side of the surface of the pedestals 
(see fig. 25, A-B), and that it was gradually 
levered up, the earth being banked behind the 
levers at each heave, until the obelisk was leaning 
against an earth slope at a sufficiently steep 
angle to permit it to be easily pulled upright. 
This method was actually used for the erection 
of the memorial obelisk of Seringapatam, but 
the obelisk only weighed some 35 tons. Some 
of the reasons against this having been the 
Egyptian method are as follows : — 

(a) The Egyptians could introduce obelisks 
inside courts whose walls were shorter than the 
length of the obelisk. Queen Hatshepsowet put 
hers between her father's pylons where there 
was a court of Osirid figures, and there is no 
evidence at all that any of the walls had been 
removed or rebuilt ; in fact I am certain that 
they were not. 

{b) Some obelisks are so close to their pylons 
that there would hardly be room for the huge 
levers which would have had to be used. 

(c) After pulling the obelisk upright there is 
nothing to stop it from rocking about and getting 
out of control. The lowering of the New York 
obelisk (p. 118) showed clearly that, once it was 
on the move, head-ropes were more than un- 
reliable in checking the momentum of such a 

{d) The obelisk of Hatshepsowet at Karnak 
has come on to its pedestal askew (see fig. 25), 



and has never used the notch at all, as its 
edge is quite sharp and unburred. This shows 
that the notch — an essential for this method — 
was not an essential for the ancient method. 

The other theory is that the obelisk was 
pulled up a long sloping embankment until 

it was at a 
height well 
above that of 
its balanc- 
ing-point or 
"centre of 
and that 
from below 
it carefully 
until the ob- 
elisk settled 
down on to 
the pedestal 


Fig. 25. 



with its edge 
in the ped- 
estal - notch, 
leaning, as in the last method, against the end 
of the embankment. From thence it was pulled 

The use of a large sloping embankment is 
more than likely, as (see note a above) the 
obelisk was obviously lowered on to its pedestal 
and not raised at all ; this method, however, has 
some serious objections, which may be summed 
up briefly : 


(a) It would be extremely risky business to 
cut earth from below an overhanging obelisk 
of 500 tons and upwards. Anyone who has 
seen earth undercut below a large stone in 
excavating work or elsewhere knows that the 
earth has a partiality for sHpping sideways in 
any direction but the expected—preferably on 
to the heads of one's workmen. 

(b) To make an obehsk settle down from a 
height on to a small pedestal by under-cutting 
would be an impossibihty. Whatever method 
the Egyptians used, it was certain, and did not 
depend on the skill of the men with the pick 
and basket. 

(c) See note c on the levering-up theory, 
which is equally applicable here. 

A method which is mechanically possible 
and which meets all observed facts is that the 
obehsk was not let down over the edge of an 
embankment, but down a funnel-shaped pit in 
the end of it, the lowering being done by remov- 
ing sand, with which the pit had been filled, 
from galleries leading into the bottom of it, and 
so allowing the obelisk to settle slowly down. 
Taking this as the basis of the method, the form 
of the pit resolves itself into a tapering square- 
sectioned funnel — rather like a petrol-funnel — 
fairly wide at the top, but very little larger than 
the base of the obehsk at the bottom. The 
obelisk is introduced into the funnel on a curved 
way leading gradually from the surface of the 
embankment until it engages smoothly with the 
hither w^all of the funnel. The sand is removed 


by men with baskets through galleries leading 
from the bottom of the funnel to convenient 
places outside the embankment. Fig. 27 shows 
a model of such an embankment, in which the 
proportions of the obelisk and pylon are the same 
as those of the temple of Luxor. The opening 
in the front of the embankment at ground level 
leads into the bottom of the left wall of the funnel 
inside, entering just above the pedestal, over 
which the funnel is built. In this photograph 
the slope of the surface of the embankment is 
somewhat exaggerated ; in reality it must have 
been very gradual, like that shown in fig. 26. 
The model of the embankment is almost exactly 
a To\y^ scale model of that which is given in 
the Anastasi Papyrus (see p. 89). The obelisk, 
which is of limestone, is a xrm^ scale model 
of the Aswan obelisk. By a curious coincidence 
they seem suitable to each other. 

In fig. 28, the obelisk has arrived at the top 
of the slope and is overhanging the sand in the 
funnel. The model is made sectional as far as 
the funnel is concerned, and it must be imagined 
that a portion of the side of the embankment has 
been removed in order to show what is going on 
inside. A vertical sheet of glass has been put 
in the place of what would have been the front 
wall of the funnel to keep the sand from pouring 

As to how the sled was separated from the 
obelisk I am not certain ; it matters the less 
since there are several simple ways by which 
this can be done. In this series of photographs 




.*4^ y* 


{Pages 31 and 70.) 




I Page 70.) 


{Page 70.) 

{Page 71.) 


the simplest method has been used, though I 
do not in any way insist that it was the ancient 

In fig. 29 the overhanging part of the sled 
has been removed, and in fig. 30 the obelisk has 
been allowed to slide forward into the sand, 
and the attachments of the hind part of the sled 
taken away. Though this method would be 
quite suitable for any of the standing obelisks 
of Egypt, in the case of the Aswan obehsk, where 
the least jerk would be fatal, I imagine that the 
obelisk would be rolled on baulks right over the 
sand, and the sled, baulks and rollers cut and 
dug away, a rather more tedious process. It 
has been suggested to me that the obelisk and 
sled went down the funnel together. My objec- 
tion to this is that a heavy obelisk and the light 
sled would part company on the way down, 
especially since the sled would be held back 
in the initial stages of the descent by the very 
great friction against the curve leading into the 
funnel. It would also be a difficult matter to 
gauge the exact position of the pedestal-notch 
so that the edge of the obelisk should engage 
in it. 

Fig. 31 shows the obelisk on its way down. In 
this model, the sand was not actually removed 
through the galleries at the front and end of 
the embankment, but was allowed to run out 
through a slit — placed where the pedestal-notch 
should be — in the bottom of the funnel, directly 
under its left wall. The descent of the obelisk 
in the model is quite automatic, and it comes 


down every time as shown in fig. 32, but in an 
actual erection the rate of descent would be 
much slower and the flow of the sand, which in 
the model produces a decided dynamic effect, 
would be absent. It is more than probable 
therefore that men would go down with the 
obelisk and, by digging, correct any tendency 
of the obelisk to lean sideways and to ensure — 
if necessary by inserting baulks (struts) between 
the base of the obelisk and the opposite wall of the 
funnel — that it did not jam against it. After 
the position shown in fig. 31 had been passed, 
there would be little fear of a jam. It seems to 
have been neglect of these precautions which 
allow^ed Hatshepsowet's standing obelisk at 
Karnak to come down too far forward, and so 
miss the notch on the pedestal altogether 
(fig. 25, p. 68). 

The obelisk should come to rest as shown in 
fig. 32, lying flat against the left wall of the funnel. 
I have made several experiments in the slope 
of the sides of the funnel and the form of the 
leading-in curve, and I find that a wide range of 
variation will produce the desired results. The 
only necessity appears to be that the left wall 
of the funnel must be straight until it is of a 
height of at least two-thirds the height of the 
balancing-point of the obelisk before the curve 

If the position of the bottom of the funnel as 
regards the pedestal is so arranged that the notch 
in the latter comes directly under the left wall, 
the obelisk will come down on to the interior 



[Page 71.) 





\ " ■ 







{Page 71.) 


edge of the notch instead of on its own edge, which 
will thus be preserved from damage. Hatshep- 
sowet's obelisk, through missing the notch, 
split the corner B severely, which had to be 
rounded off to cover up the defect. Besides this, 
the notch had another function, which was to 
prevent the obelisk from twisting when it was 
pulled upright, and the Queen's obelisk — again 
through missing the notch — has twisted con- 
siderably, its position being CDEF instead of 
C'D'E'F' (fig. 25, p. 68). It is likely that part 
of the wall of the funnel had to be cut away to 
enable the obelisk to be pulled upright, though 
in any case I should imagine that enough space 
was left between the base of the obelisk and the 
funnel to enable men to get round and remove 
any stones, etc., which might have come down 
in the sand. It is seen, therefore, that the 
notch, although not an essential to the process 
of erection, is necessary for a perfect piece 
of work. 

As soon as the obelisk had come down into 
its notch (fig. 32), men would enter through the 
gallery leading in from the end of the embank- 
ment, and clear every particle of sand from 
under the base, before it was pulled upright 
(fig. 33). Any tendency to rock after passing 
its dead-centre could be avoided by filling the 
space between the obelisk and the further wall 
of the funnel with coarse brushwood to act as 
a sort of cushion. The reason why I suppose 
that the sand was removed from the front 
gallery (which leads into the left side of the 


funnel) is that, if it were removed through the 
end gallery, there would be a far greater likeli- 
hood for the obelisk to jam against the opposite 
wall, since the flow of sand would be forwards 
rather than from under the obelisk. 

An alternative possibility for the form of the 
funnel is that it had vertical walls in a transverse 
sense, the width being but very slightly greater 
than that of the base of the obelisk ; in other 
words, made so that the obehsk entered like a 
penny in the slot. By this means, full advantage 
would be taken of the weight of the sand above 
the obehsk, which would have the effect of bring- 
ing the base downward. I think, however, that 
the advantage gained would be discounted by 
the difficulty of controlling the descent by 
digging, etc., but it is a possibility which must 
be taken into serious consideration. 

In the base of the now fallen obelisk of 
Tuthmosis III, which stood before the pylons 
of Tuthmosis I at Karnak, there are two rounded 
depressions near the centre. These may have 
been for inserting soft wooden blocks to act as 
shock-absorbers and to prevent the obelisk from 
tilting itself upright, prematurely, in its descent. 
The curious marks on the pedestal of the west 
obelisk of Luxor Temple may have fulfilled a 
similar purpose. 

It is noteworthy, in the pedestals of the various 
obelisks, that their notches are not on the river 
side of the pedestals, even, as in the case of the 
obelisk which once stood before Pylon VII at 
Karnak, when the distance to the river was 


nearly 400 yards. To obtain sufficient height 
in the embankment, this obeUsk had to be 
taken directly inland and brought back on an 
embankment which must have been constructed 
right over the Sacred Lake. Existing pylons 
prevented it from being brought to its pedestal 
parallel to the river, as was done in the case of 
the obelisks of Tuthmosis I and III on the axis 
of the temple at Kamak. This is another hint 
that the embankment theory is correct. 

Before we can say that the funnel theory is a 
possibility, we have to make sure that the 
largest obelisk known will not break owing to 
its great weight when supported at or pivoting 
round its centre of gravity or balancing-point. 
The non-technical reader will grasp this point 
better if he realises that a model obelisk like that 
shown in the photographs, which can be sup- 
ported anywhere, and even leaned upon as well, 
without breaking, will not behave in the same 
way if it is magnified some 200 times, although 
the proportions are identical and the material 
the same. The strain due to its own weight is 
proportional to the Unear dimensions of the 
monument. I will not give here the extremely 
wearisome calculation for the strain set up, but 
it is given in full in The Aswan Obelisk, and shows 
that even it could be supported anywhere 
without straining the granite to more than 
two-thirds what it can possibly stand. This is 
a narrow enough margin, and to endure this 
strain the granite would have to be flawless. 
Although the mathematics of the Egyptians was 


totally incapable of determining such stresses, 
they knew very well that such a long obelisk, 
if not perfectly sound, would inevitably break 
during the erecting process, if not long before. 
One, called Dhutiy (p. io6) , mentions in his tomb 
inscription at Thebes that he erected two obelisks 
of io8 cubits in length, but unless the obelisks 
were much thicker than all known examples in 
proportion to their length, they would not have 
stood the strain of transport and erection. 

The greater colossi, such as those of " Memnon " 
and the gigantic granite figure of Ram esses II 
in the Ramesseum, must have been erected in 
much the same manner as obelisks. The notches 
in the pedestals show them to have been brought 
in sideways, probably when they were merely 
roughed out. There must have been, of course, 
slight differences in the technique of the process, 
especially in the form of the funnel ; the edges 
of the colossi, too, come flush with the edge cf 
the pedestals with the notches well inside them. 
It seems likely that, in the case of colossi, the 
notch was filled with wood, on to which the 
monument came down ; that is, the edge of the 
colossus was protected by the raised baulk of 
wood, held steady in the notch, instead of by 
the notch itself. This subject needs a good deal 
of further study. 

One of the more surprising theories on the 
erecting process, which savours somewhat of 
Heath Robinson's mechanical studies, may be 
of interest. This is that put forward by Auguste 
Choisy in L'Art de hdtir chez les Egyptiens. 



According to him the obeUsk was raised by a 
series of weighted horizontal levers acting along 
its length, earth being banked under the obelisk 
at each heave, suitable supporting surfaces for 
the fulcra of the levers, in the form of masonry 
sides to the bank, being made, and heightened 
as the obelisk rose. Fig. 34, taken from his book, 
makes this clear. 

His method of erecting is shown in figs. 35 and 
36. He says : " Having arrived at a height a, 
let us pass, below it, 
cross-beams c and a pivot 
(tourillon) n. Now noth- 
ing prevents us from 
getting rid of the earth 
and constructing a 
glissiere, or slide, g. 
Having made the slide, 
let us replace the re- 
moved earth by sand ; 
let us remove the supports c and take away the 
sand. The obelisk, pivoting about n, will reach 
position a", and finally attain the vertical above 
its base b. It will be sufficient, to prevent it 
going too far, to reserve at rf a buffer, and to 
hold back the top of the obelisk by head-ropes." 

He does not tell us what the tourillon is to be 
made of to stand the enormous strain, nor does 
he give any details as to the nature of the slide 
which would allow the point of the sled to slide 
over it and not jam hard. His attachment of the 
obelisk on the sled and the recess in the latter for 
holding back the obeUsk are quite unsupported 



by any evidence. He goes on to say that the 
obeHsk was lowered down on to its pedestal 

by puncturing filled sand-bags which had been 
packed between it and the pedestal when in 
position a'". His explanation of the notch is 


that it was to take a sausage-shaped bag, which 
was to be punctured last, after having removed 
the debris of the others. The mechanics of the 
method seem to me to be quite unsound, and 
the crushing of the inner edges of the pedestal- 
notches and the position of Hatshepsowet's 
obelisk on its pedestal are not explainable by 
Choisy's theory. 

It is rather difficult to say whether the 
Egyptians used scale models of obelisks to deter- 
mine their weights and balancing-points, and to 
rehearse the erecting process. I am of opinion 
that they did ; at any rate, there are quite a 
number of small obelisks known ; one of Amen- 
ophis II has just been found at Aswan, which 
weighed under a ton. Apart from the determina- 
tion of the bending stress (p. 75), the convenience 
of making use of models in this way cannot have 
escaped them. The final function of these small 
obelisks seems to have been to place them on 
either side of shrines, and especially of the 
Divine Boats. We have the description of 
the furniture provided for the sacred barge of 
the god Amun in the time of Amenophis III. 
We are told (Breasted, Ancient Records, II, 
§ 888) :- 

It was made very wide and large ; there is no 
instance of the like being done. Its . . . is adorned 
with silver, wrought with gold throughout ; the 
great shrine is of electrum, so that it fills the land with 
its brightness ; its bows are as bright. They bear 
great crowns, and serpents twine along its two sides 
to protect them. Flagstaves, wrought with electrum. 


are set up before it, with two great obelisks between 
them ; it is beautiful everywhere. 

A model of a temple of the time of Seti I 
was found near Cairo, in which the base, which 
is of gritstone, shows the sockets in which the 
model pylons, colossi, obelisks and even the last 
pair of the avenue-sphinxes were fixed. Although 
this does not appear to have been an architect's 
working-model, having probably served some 
religious purpose in the temple like the tools 
and implements always found in temple founda- 
tion-deposits, it at least shows that the Egyp- 
tians were no strangers to making models of 
things other than tools, furniture and objects 
of art. 

I had intended to devote a chapter to the 
polishing and engraving of obelisks after they 
were set up, but our knowledge of the engraving of 
the hard rocks is so vague that it can be summed 
up in a paragraph. The details of the processes, 
as given in the various works on the subject, 
are not clear to me — perhaps owing to my 
reprehensible habit of making experiments. The 
fundamental principles are, however, tolerably 
plain, and are summed up in Prof. Petrie's 
Arts and Crafts in Ancient Egypt. There is no 
doubt that the faces of the obelisks were dressed 
by the dolerite balls until they were as flat as 
possible, tests being made, as in engineering 
work to-day, by putting against them a portable 
flat plane smeared with red ochre and oil, or 
" ruddle " as the red lead and oil, now used for 
this purpose, is called. Prof. Petrie says that 


it was considered flat enough if the touches of 
red ochre from the plane were not separated by 
more than an inch, but I think he means this 
to refer to the sarcophagi and medium-sized 
monuments. In an obelisk the accuracy seems 
to have been far less (p. 37). The basis of the 
polishing and the engraving was most certainly 
emery stone and powder. There are indications 
that granite was cut with tubular drills and 
sometimes sawn, but we are more than doubtful 
how the emery was used. On page 72 of the 
work quoted, the situation is summed up as 
follows : " The difhcult question is whether the 
material (emery) was used as loose powder, 
or was set in the metal tool as separate teeth. 
An actual example was found in the prehistoric 
Greek palace of Tiryns. The hard limestone 
there has been sawn, and I found a broken bit 
of the saw left in a cut. The copper blade had 
rusted away to green carbonate, and with it 
were some little blocks of emery about a sixteenth 
of an inch long, rectangular, and quite capable 
of being set, but far too large to act as a loose 
powder with a plain blade. On the Egyptian 
examples there are long grooves in the faces of 
the cuts of both saws and drills ; and grooves 
may be made by working a loose powder. But, 
further, the groove certainly seems to run spirally 
round a core, which would show that it was cut 
by a single point. . . . The large hieroglyphs 
(p. 74) on hard stones were cut by copper blades 
fed with emery, and sawn along the outline 
by hand ; the block between the cuts was 


broken out, and the floor of the sign was 
hammer-dressed and finally ground down with 

Before leaving the subject of the mechanical 
details connected with obelisks it may be of 
interest to inquire whether the Egyptians ever 
took them down. Pliny (p. 88) tells us that, 
under the Ptolemies, obelisks were moved, and 
we are very certain that the Romans and 
Byzantines did so on several occasions (p. no). 
We have only one indication on this point, 
but it is of interest, since the inclusion of the 
word *' obelisks " on a pylon not only answers 
the question, but makes us reconsider the usually 
accepted dating of an important building. The 
evidence is as follows : On the pylon of Ameno- 
phis in behind the Great Hypostyle Hall at 
Karnak, now known in the guide-books as 
Pylon III, the king, in an inscription on the 
east face, tells how wonderfully he decorated it. 
The inscription concludes : — " August ... of 
electrum and obelisks. ..." Now when Tutankh- 
amun, some 25 years after his death, celebrated 
the return to the worship of Amun, he cut reliefs 
of the procession on the screen-walls of the great 
colonnade of the Temple of Luxor. He shows 
twice, in great detail, the pylon of Amenophis III, 
with its flagstaves and scenes, but there are no 
obelisks shown. During the Aten heresy all 
building work in Thebes was stopped in the 
temple of Amun. The inference is that Ameno- 
phis III himself took them down. The only 
reason for him taking them down would be 


because he had the Hypostyle Hall, or at least 
the central colonnade, in his mind. This is far 
more likely than the supposition that Haremhab 
or Ramesscs I put such a colossal piece of work in 
hand, as their building activities were small. 
Such a conception is quite in keeping, however, 
with the character of Amenophis III. The 
pillars are of typical XlXth dynasty work, so the 
king must have died almost as soon as the 
plan of the new building had been set out. 
The explanation that he took down the obelisks 
to put them in the temple of Monthu, north of 
the main temple, is unlikely, as the king 
would not take down his obelisks from the most 
important site in Upper Egypt and put them 
in a far less important place. Another indication 
that the Temple of Monthu was not their destina- 
tion is that the pedestals of the obelisks there 
show that they were comparatively small ; to 
my mind too small to have been those used before 
his pylon in the main temple. Where these 
obelisks actually went is rather a mystery, 
imless the king took them across the river, after 
having ordered a new pair for his great temple 
behind the Colossi of " Memnon," which we 
know was furnished with obelisks. It is gener- 
ally admitted that the Grand Colonnade at 
Luxor, which was completed by Tutankhamun 
and usurped by Haremhab, was commenced by 
Amenophis III as an addition to his own temple ; 
it is therefore not unreasonable to suppose 
that he also began a similar building before 
his pylon at Kamak. Whether these additions 


were intended by him to be hypostyle halls or 
colonnades is uncertain ; I think the latter 
is more probable, since Tutankhamun, from 
the little we know of him, would not have done 
more than complete any building he found nearly 
finished. If he had found a hypostyle hall, the 
columns would all have been of one height in 
whatever state of completion the hall happened 
to be, since it appears to have been the Egyptian 
method to fill the building up with earth as the 
work became higher. The transformation of a 
hypostyle hall into a simple colonnade would 
have been a formidable undertaking. At Karnak, 
the history of the work appears to have been as 
follows : Haremhab and Harnesses I carried on 
with the plan of a colonnade left by Amenophis, 
and, before he died, Ramesses I was able to 
inscribe his name on one of the columns. When 
Seti I — a great building king — came to the 
throne, he changed the whole scheme, and 
developed the colonnade of Amenophis III into 
the Great Hypostyle Hall. All this speculation 
is raised by the inclusion, on a pylon, of the word 
" obelisks." 


SOME idea as to the number of men employed 
on the transport of stone can be obtained 
from the following three accounts of expe- 

King Menthuhotpe IV, of the Xlth dynasty, 
sent an expedition to the Wady Hammammat 
to quarry stone for a large sarcophagus, and it 
is recorded that 10,000 men were sent out there. 
We are further told that it took 3,000 sailors 
from the Delta Provinces to remove the lid, 
which measured 13 feet 10 inches by 6 feet 
5 inches by 3 feet 2| inches deep, from the quarry 
to the river. The " sailors " were probably a 
pressed gang of the amphibious inhabitants of 
the Delta lakes. The expedition seems to have 
been fortunate, as we are told that not a man 
perished, not a trooper was missing, not an ass 
died, and not a workman was enfeebled (Breasted, 
Ancient Records, I, § 448). 

In the reign of King Amenemhet III, of the 
Xllth dynasty, an official, also called Amenem- 
het, was sent to the same spot for 10 statues, 



each 8 feet 8 inches high. The personnel was 
made up as follows (Breasted, Ancient Records, 
I, § 710) :- 

Necropolis soldiers 



Under Ram esses IV a large expedition was 
again sent to the Wady Hammammat for 
monumental stone. It numbered 8,362 persons, 
and consisted of : — 

High Priest of Amun, Ramesses-nakht, Director 

of Works 


Civil and military officers of rank 


Subordinate officers 

. 362 

Trained artificers and artists . . 


Quarrymen and stonecutters . . 





. 2,000 

Infantry , . 

. 5,000 

Men from Ayan . . 


Dead (excluded from total) 



It will be seen from these figures that huge 
numbers of men were sent far afield for monu- 
ments much smaller than the Aswan obelisk. 
It seems to have been the custom to use troops 
on this unpleasant kind of fatigue. It might 
be observed by the facetiously-minded person 
that the present-day unpopularity of all recruit- 
ing measures in Egypt is but an inherited race- 
instinct. As there was always a garrison at 
Aswan, large numbers of men would be available 


at very short notice. Another point in the above 
Hst is the relatively small proportion of actual 
quarrymen and stonemasons. Since the rock 
in the Wady Hammammat was basalt — and 
very hard — it is more than probable that the 
extraction of the monuments was done by 
pounding, and that the quarrymen and stone- 
masons were only needed to direct the unskilled 
labourers and to perform the skilled work, such 
as making the wedge- slots when necessary and 
to examine the quality of the rock. How much 
finishing was done out in the desert we have no 
means of knowing. 

The record of Queen Hatshepsowet as to the 
length of time spent on the Karnak obelisks 
is given on pages 49 and 104. 

In a papyrus known as the Papyrus Anastasi I, 
which is a kind of collection of model letters 
for scribes to copy, one scribe called Hori writes 
to another called Amenemope hinting that he 
is not up to his job. He says (Gardiner, Egyptian 
Hieratic Texts, § XIII) : — " An obelisk has been 
newly made . . . of no cubits (190 feet) ; its 
pedestal is 10 cubits (17! feet) square, and the 
block of its base makes 7 cubits in every direc- 
tion ; it goes in a slope (?) towards the summit 
(?) one cubit one finger, its pyramidion is one 
cubit in height, its point measuring two fingers. 
Combine them so as to make them into a list, 
that thou mayest appoint every man needed to 
drag it. . . ." Here the obelisk is extremely 
long, with a ridiculously short pyramidion, and 
the problem is an impossible one to solve for 


anyone who is not acquainted with the results 
of previous work in the quarry, and who is not 
famihar with the ground to be covered. The 
figures given are only sufficient to determine 
the weight of the obelisk. If such a problem 
was a typical one that scribes had to solve, the 
conclusion is that some kind of statistical record 
was kept in the archives of the various seats of 
learning to which the scribes had access. In 
other words, the experience of previous under- 
takings was at the disposal of the scribes. 

Details of the transport of the winged bull at 
Nineveh are given on pages 56 and 57, and of 
the transport of the statue of Dhuthotpe on 
page 58. 

Greek and Roman writers throw very little 
light on the transport and erection of large 
monuments except in giving dimensions of the 
blocks transported. Herodotus, in Book II, 
Chapter 175, tells us that King Amasis II 
brought a building of one stone from Elephantine 
which measured 34 feet 7 inches by 23 feet by 
13 feet externally, and 30 feet 10 inches by 
20 feet by 8 feet 4 inches internally, and that the 
2,000 men appointed to convey it — who we are 
told were all pilots — took three whole years to 
perform their task. 

Pliny, in his Natural History, Book XXXVI, 
Chapter 14, gives a slightly more valuable 
account of how King Ptolemy Philadelphus had 
an obelisk transported to Alexandria. He tells 
us that it was done by digging a canal from the 
Nile to the spot where the obelisk lay, passing 


below it, so that the obehsk was supported on 
either bank. Two large barges loaded with 
stones were unballasted below the obelisk which, 
rising, received its weight. This may well have 
been true, but it was not the way in which the 
Egyptians transported them, for there is no 
trace of a canal near the Aswan quarries. 

The Egyptians, as it has already been remarked, 
have left us practically no information at all 
as to how they erected their obelisks. There 
is, however, a passage in the Anastasi Papyrus 
which refers to the erection of a colossus, and 
which is perhaps worth recording here, since 
it is fairly certain that the principle of the 
erection of the larger colossi was very similar 
to that of the erection of an obelisk (p. 76). 
The text gives : — " It is said to thee : Empty 
the magazine that has been loaded with sand 
under the monument of thy Lord, which has 
been brought from the Red Mountain. It 
makes 30 cubits stretched on the ground and 
20 cubits in breadth . . . -ed with 100 chambers 
(?) filled with sand from the river bank. The 
... of its chambers have a breadth of 44 (?) 
cubits and a height of 50 cubits, all of them 
... in their . . . Thou art commanded to 
remove (overturn) it in six hours." Here, owing 
to errors in re-copying, and our slight knowledge 
of the technical terms mentioned, we are at a 
total loss as to the meaning of the second 

In the same papyrus (§ XIII) there is a refer- 
ence to an embankment which may well have 


been intended for the erection of an obelisk, 
as the problem immediately following it is that 
dealing with the transport of an obelisk, which 
has already been quoted. The scribe Hori puts 
the problem thus : — " There is a ramp to be 
made of 730 cubits (418 yards) with a breadth 
of 55 cubits (31-5 yards) consisting of 120 
compartments (?) filled with reeds and beams 
having a height of 60 cubits (34-4 yards) at its 
summit. Its middle is 30 cubits (17-2 yards), 
its batter 15 cubits (8-6 yards), its base (?) 5 
cubits (2-87 yards). The quantity of bricks 
for it is asked of the commander of the army. 
Behold its measurements are before thee ; each 
one of its compartments is 30 cubits long and 
7 cubits broad. . . ." Here, as before, the 
words " compartment " and " base " are of very 
doubtful meaning, and it is difficult to arrive 
at any definite idea on the construction of the 
ramp apart from its overall measurements. 
However one tries to arrange compartments in 
the ramp, an impossible situation follows, so we 
are compelled to believe that there is some 
error in the figures due to re-copying. It is 
likely that the compartments refer to the internal 
division of the ramp which, as it were, is a brick 
box, filled with earth for economy ; on the other 
hand, the word may mean the externally visible 
sections or towers always found in very large 
brick walls. For full notes on these walls, see 
Somers Clarke, Journal of Egyptian Archceology, 
Vol. VII, p. 77. 
The onlv account of the erection of an obelisk 


by the Egyptians is that given by PUny, which 
cannot fail to appeal to those who have had 
the fortune (?) to fall into the hands of an 
Egyptian dragoman. He must have livened up 
the visitors even in those days. Pliny was 
told that King " Rhamsesis," when an obelisk 
was being put up, feared that the machinery 
employed would not be strong enough, so he had 
his own son tied to the summit in order to make 
the workmen more careful. If this " Rhamsesis" 
was Ramesses II, the loss of a son would not 
have been vital, as he is known to have had 
over a hundred, to say nothing of several score 
daughters ! 



^LTHOUGH the ancient records and other 
/-\ notes given in this chapter are somewhat 
-*- -^of a digression from the main subject 
of the book — the mechanical problems connected 
with obelisks — they are of interest, since they 
give us glimpses, not only of the curious history 
of some of the better-known obelisks, but of the 
lives and characters of the men who were 
responsible for their quarrying and erection. 
Fortunately, the tombs of most of the obelisk- 
architects are known to us, since their efforts 
on behalf of their kings were usually rewarded 
by the present of a tomb in the most fashionable 
part of the Theban necropolis, and of a statue 
in the temple. Though they were debarred 
from putting the ancient version of " So-and-so 
fecit " on their obelisks, they made up for it 
in their tombs by recording with pride that they 
had put up obelisks for the king, and they become 
garrulous in recounting what good workmen 
they were, and how well they treated their 
subordinates, specially emphasising the rewards 
they received and the titles and decorations 
granted to them. But they say nothing as to 
how they did their job ; it sufficed that it was 
done. This omission — so strange to our minds — 



seems to me to be due to the fact that there 
was only one method of putting up an obehsk, 
which was well known. It seems more than 
likely, however, that full details of each piece 
of work were kept for the information and 
guidance of scribes. 

The obelisk of Tuthmosis I, shown in the 
frontispiece, which, with its now fallen fellow, 
stood before his pj'lon (No. IV at Karnak), was 
erected by a noble called Ineni, who also con- 
structed the pylon and court of Osirid figures 
behind it, and excavated the King's tomb in the 
royal valley. His active life began under 
Amenophis I (see Appendix II) and continued 
into the second reign of Tuthmosis III, when 
in co-regency with Queen Hatshepsowet. The 
times in which he lived were prosperous but 
stormy, especially during the latter end of his 
career, when the relations between Tuthmosis III 
and the Queen were more than strained. Per- 
haps it is fortunate that he died before the open 
rupture took place, or he might have shared, 
with Sennemut and others of the Queen's party, 
the hatred of Tuthmosis III when at length he 
ruled alone. Ineni's sympathies clearly lay 
with Hatshepsowet. In his tornb (No. 81 at 
Thebes) he gives quite an entertaining account 
of his life. His titles were : Pasha, Count, Chief 
of all the Works in Karnak, Controller of the 
Double-houses of Silver and of Gold, Sealer of 
all Contracts in the House of Amun, and Excel- 
lency in Charge of the Double-Granary. The 
beginning of his tomb-inscription is missing, but 


he appears to have been foreman on the work 
of Amenophis I's gate to the south of the 
Karnak temple and of his mortuary temple on 
the west side. Ineni tells us [cf. Breasted, 
Ancient Records, II, § 45) : — 

.... its doors were erected of copper made in 
one sheet ; parts of them were of electrum. I inspected 
that which His Majesty made . . . (of) bronze, Asiatic 
copper — collars, vessels and necklaces, I was foreman 
of every work ; all offices were under my command. . . . 
Inspection was made for me — I was the reckoner. 

Describing the death of the king, he says : — 
His Majesty, having spent his life in happiness and 
the years in peace, went forth to heaven. He joined 
the Sun ; he associated with Him and went forth. 

Under Tuthmosis I, Ineni obtained the super- 
intendence of the king's building projects, and 
he begins the next part of his story by impressing 
on the reader how thoroughly Egypt and Nubia 
were under his authority. After recording the 
new king's kindness to hina, he says : — 

I inspected the great monuments which he made [a 
great hall] ; with great pylons on either side of it 
made of fine Ayan limestone. August flagstaves were 
erected at the double fa9ade of the temple, of new fir- 
trees of the best of the Terraces (Lebanon ?), whose 
tips were of electrum (silver-gold alloy). ... I inspected 
the putting-up of the great doorway called : Amun- 
Mighty-in-Wealth ; its huge door was of Asiatic 
copper, whereon was the Divine Shadow, inlaid with 
gold. I inspected the erection of two obelisks . . . 
and built the " august " boat of 120 cubits (206-6 feet) 
in length and 40 cubits (68-86 feet) in breadth for 
transporting these obelisks. They came in peace 


safety and prosperity, and landed at Karnak. . . . 
Its track ( ? ) was laid with every pleasant wood. I 
inspected the excavations of the cliff-tomb of His 
Majesty — no one seeing, no one hearing — ... I made 
fields of clay for plastering the tombs of the Necropolis. 
I was obliged to do a job which the ancestors had not 
had done. . . . 

After again assuring us that he was really 
a first-class engineer, and immensely popular 
into the bargain, he records the death of the 
king, saying that he " rested from life, going 
forth to heaven, having completed his years in 
gladness of heart." 

Under Tuthmosis II, Ineni seems not to have 
engaged in any work of importance, and he says 
that he is getting old ; but he records with pride 
that he was supplied with food from the king's 
own table until Tuthmosis II also died, or, as 
Ineni puts it, " mingled with the gods." 

During the cat-and-dog life of Hatshepsowet 
and Tuthmosis III, the old courtier had retired 
from all active work, but seems to have been a 
keen observer of the state of the court. On 
the accession of the king and queen he observes : 

His (Tuthmosis H's) son stood in his place as King 
of Egypt, having become ruler in the place of him who 
begat him. His sister, the Divine Consort, settled the 
affairs of Egypt according to her ideas. . . . 

The ending of Ineni's inscription does not err 
on the side of modesty. He concludes thus : — 

I became great beyond words ; I will tell you about 
it, ye people ; listen and do the good that I did — just 
like me. I continued powerful in peace and met with 


no misfortune ; my years were spent in gladness. I 
was neither a traitor nor a sneak, and I did no wrong 
whatever. I was foreman of the foremen, and did not 
fail. ... I never hesitated, but always obeyed superior 
orders . . . and I never blasphemed sacred things. 

Such was the career of Ineni, whose inscription, 
when analysed, is of very great inaportance 
historically. If he handled oriental labour for 
some forty years without blaspheming it was 
not the least of his achievements. 

The inscriptions on this obelisk are Uke those 
of most other obelisks, and are merely the 
elaborate titulary of the king and the fact of the 
dedication to the god. They have no general 
interest beyond giving the reign under which 
it was erected. Here the middle columns only 
are contemporary, the side ones being titles and 
encomiums added by Ramesses IV and VI some 
four centuries later. As an example of a dedi- 
cation formula, the east and west sides may be 
translated as follows, the north and south sides 
being only titles : — 

(East) Horus; Mighty Bull, beloved of Truth; 
King of Upper and Lower Egypt ; Favourite of the 
Two Goddesses ; Shining with the Serpent Diadem, 
great in strength ; Okheperkere Setepnere ; Golden 
Horus ; Beautiful in Years, who makes hearts to live ; 
Bodily son of Re, Tuthmosis (I), Shining in Beauty. 

He made it as his monument to his father Amun, 
Lord of Thebes, Presider over Karnak, that he may 
be given life, like Re, eternally. 

(West) Horus; Mighty Bull, beloved of Truth, 
King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Okheperkere, Setep- 


He made it as his monument to his father Amen-R6, 
Chief of Egypt, erecting for him two great obelisks at 
the double-fa9ade of the temple. The pyramidions 
are of [electrum]. . . . 

When the fragments of the companion obeHsk 
were discovered, it was found that they were 
inscribed, not by Tuthmosis I, but by Tuth- 
mosis III. Ineni is quite clear about his having 
erected two obeHsks before the pylons. From 
this we deduce that after the second obelisk 
had been erected, but before it was inscribed, 
Tuthmosis I died. We are therefore driven to 
one of two conclusions : either that the obelisk 
remained uninscribed for some twenty-three 
years until Tuthmosis III held the throne, being 
neither usurped by Tuthmosis II nor Hat- 
shepsowet — which is extremely improbable — ■ 
or that Tuthmosis III reigned for a certain 
period before Tuthmosis II ! Strange as this 
may seem, it is borne out by quite a large amount 
of evidence. The probable order of the Tuth- 
mosids was somewhat as follows : — 

(i) Tuthmosis I either abdicates or is sup- 

(2) Tuthmosis III reigns alone, possibly as a 
child, protected by a strong party. 

(3) Hatshepsowet's party forces her upon 
Tuthmosis III as co-regent ; he may have 
acquiesced since, by marrying the heiress, he 
would make his title secure. 

(4) After Tuthmosis III had been on the 
throne some six years in all, Tuthmosis I and II 



seize the throne, but are unable to make 
Tuthmosis HI rehnquish his claims on it. 

(5) Tuthmosis I dies, and a co-regency of 
Tuthmosis II and III follows, which lasts till 
Tuthmosis II's death two years later. 

(6) Hatshepsowet and Tuthmosis III rule 
together for twelve years, until the former 
either dies or is forced to retire, 

(7) Tuthmosis III rules alone, and cuts out 
the names of the queen and her supporters 
wherever he finds them. 

Even this complicated sequence does not 
absolutely explain all the observed facts, and it 
is still a matter of conjecture how such a state 
of affairs arose. The successors of these rulers — 
who seem to have thrived in spite of the most 
grotesque in-breeding — have, it seems, treated 
the matter as a private affair and hushed it 
up, recording the order of each according to the 
period in which he reigned longest, namely, 
Tuthmosis I, Tuthmosis II and Tuthmosis III. 
Hatshepsowet is omitted as, though her husband 
ruled through her, she could not by custom 
reign alone. 

The above brief historical precis has been 
included to show how a simple dedicatory 
inscription may give the key to a most extra- 
ordinary political situation, and to enable the 
reader better to understand the conditions under 
which the next four architects performed their 

Hatshepsowet's standing obelisk at Karnak 
— the second largest survivor — was erected by 


Sennemut, who was perhaps the staunches! 
supporter of the queen against Tuthmosis III. 
Not only did he play an important part in her 
expedition to Punt (Somahland), but he was 
her chief architect at Karnak, Luxor, Der 
El-Bahari and Herrnonthis (Armant). So great 
a favourite was he with the queen that he, 
together with a noble called Ahmose-pen-Nekh- 
beyet, shared between them the rearing of her 
daughter, the heiress, Nefrure. A further mark 
of the royal favour was that his statues were 
presented to him by the queen and Tuthmosis 
III — the latter, perhaps, under compulsion — to 
be set up in the temple of Karnak. One of the 
statues of Sennemut holding Nefrure is shown in 
fig. 37. He was even included and mentioned 
by name in the adoration-scene of the south 
colonnade at Der El-Bahari — a most unusual 
honour. Hatshepsowet's power seemed to rest 
on Sennemut and two other nobles called Nehsi 
(" The Sudanese ") and Dhutiy, the last being also 
an expert in obelisks. Their figures are chiselled 
out at Der El-Bahari and their tombs, especially 
that of Sennemut (No. 71 at Thebes), were 
mutilated by Tuthmosis III after the fall of the 
queen. In contrast to Sennemut, Puimre, yet 
another obelisk-maker, continued to work as 
energetically for Tuthmosis III in later years 
as for Hatshepsowet, for whom he had made 
an ebony shrine. Can it be that here we have 
an ancient " Vicar of Bray " ? Sennemut, at any 
rate, preferred to fall with his queen. 

Sennemut's tomb is almost completely 


destroyed, but liis statues give the details of the 
work he did. Though Tuthmosis HI cut out 
his name, he left the inscription intact. It is 
from here that we learn that his titles were 
Pasha, Count, Royal Seal-bearer, Sole Com- 
panion, Chief Steward of Amun, Chief of the 
Prophets of Monthu in Armant, Controller of 
the Fields, Gardens and Cattle of Amun, Chief 
Steward of the King and Chief of the Peasant- 
serfs. Though Hepusonb (tomb No. 8i) was 
Vizier, there is no doubt that Sennemut was 
the power behind the throne. The inscriptions 
on his statues are of the usual formal character 
and are hardly worth giving at length. On one 
he says, after recording the favour of the 
" King," as Hatshepsowet preferred to be 
called : — 

I was the greatest of the great in the whole land » 
one who had audience alone in the Privy Council. I 
was the real favourite of the King. ... I was foreman 
of the foremen ; superior of the great. ... I was one 
to whom the affairs of Egypt were reported. That 
which the South and North contributed was sealed by 
me ; the labour of all countries was under my charge. 

Then follows an appeal to all living men upon 
earth, who see his statue, to say the usual prayer 
for his ka or double, and the inscription con- 
cludes : — 

I was a noble who was obeyed ; moreover, I had 
access to all the writings of the prophets ; there was 
nothing which I did not know concerning what had 
happened since the beginning. 

He shows his knowledge of the classics by 




quoting an archaic formula which had long fallen 
into disuse. 

His second statue, which is that of the illustra- 
tion on page lOO, has a more condensed inscrip- 
tion. In it he refers to his tutorship, and says 
how he " entered into all the wonderful plans 
of the Mistress of Egypt." Here, curiously 
enough, he says that his engineering appoint- 
ment was due to " Him," although the feminine 
pronoun is maintained elsewhere in the inscrip- 
tion for Hatshepsowet. Possibly this statue was 
presented when his relations with Tuthmosis III 
were still fairly amicable. 

We know nothing of Sennemiit's parents 
except their names, which were Ramose and 
Henufer. His brother Senmen, however, was a 
very influential and powerful noble, and his 
tomb was also wrecked by Tuthmosis III. 

Sennemut has left an inscription on the rocks 
at Aswan where he appears adoring the queen. 
After giving her titles and his own, he records : — 

. . . Sennemiit came in order to conduct the work 
of two great obelisks [on the feast of] A-Myriad-of- 
Years. It took place according to that which was 
commanded — everything was done — because of the 
fame of Her Majesty. 

The vertical inscriptions on the great obelisk 
of Hatshepsowet at Karnak are merely titles and 
laudatory phrases, and give no information at 
all of the character of the queen or the history 
of her times. The south, west and north sides 
give the elaborate titulary, and express the love 


that the god Amen-Re bore her. At the end of 
the text on the east face she says : — 

She repeated the action of her father, Tuthmosis (I), 
in erecting obehsks, so that her name might also hve 
for ever. 

The inscriptions round the base of the standing 
obehsk are considerably more important, and are 
now considered to be the finest examples of the 
language of the period. The following is a 
translation : — 

(South side) May the Horus (fern.) live . . . (the 
full titulary follows) . . . daughter of Amen-Re, his 
favourite, his only one, who exists through him, the 
splendid part of the All-Lord, whose beauty the Spirits 
of Heliopolis fashioned ; who has taken the land like 
" The Begetter," whom he has created to wear his 
Diadem, who exists like Khepri (the god of the Rising 
Sun) who shines with crowns like " Him-of-the- 
Horizon " ; the pure egg, the excellent seed, whom 
the two Sorceresses (Isis and Nephthys) reared, whom 
Amun himself caused to appear upon his throne in 
Armant, whom he chose to protect Egypt to defend 
the people ; the Horus, avenger of her father (Osiris), 
the eldest daughter of the " Bull-of-his-Mother " (a 
sun-god), whom Re begat to make for himself excellent 
seed upon earth for the well-being of the people ; his 
living image, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Makere 
(Hatshepsowet's throne-name), the " electrum " of 

She made them as her monument to her father 
Amun, Lord of Thebes, Presider over Karnak, making 
for him two great obelisks of enduring granite from 
the south ; their summits are of electrum of the best 
of every country, and are seen on both sides of the 


river. Their rays flood the Two Lands when the sun 
rises between them as he dawns in the horizon of 

I have done this from a loving heart for my father 
Amun, I have entered into his scheme for his first 
jubilee; I was wise by his excellent spirit and forgot 
notliing of that which he exacted. (West side.) 
My Majesty knows that he is divine. 

^I did it under his command : it was he who 

led me. 
I conceived no works without his doing : it was 

he who gave me directions. 
I slept not because of his temple : I erred not 

from that which he commanded. 
My heart was wise before my father : I entered 

into the affairs of his heart. 
I turned not my back on the City of The All- 
Lord : but turned to it the face. 
I know that Karnak is the horizon upon earth, the 
August Ascent of the Beginning, the Sacred Eye of 
the All-Lord, the place of his heart, which wears his 
beauty, and encompasses those who follow him. 

Thus saith the King : "I have set it before the 
people who shall be in after ages, and whose hearts 
shall consider this monument which I made for my 
father (an obscure phrase follows). ... I sat in the 
palace, I remembered him who fashioned me ; my 
heart led me to make for him two obelisks of electrum 
whose points mingled with heaven, in the august 
colonnade between the two great pylons of the King, 
the Mighty Bull, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, 
Okheperkere (Tuthmosis I) the deceased Horus. . . ." 
O ye people (north side) who shall see my monument 

^ The phrasing of these five hnes, it will be noticed, bears a 
striking resemblance to that of the Psalms. 


in after years, those who shall speak of that which I 
have made beware lest ye say, " I know not, I know 
not why this was done — a mountain fashioned entirely 
from gold as if it were an everyday occurrence." *I 
swear, as Rd loves me, as my father Amun favours me, 
as my nostrils are filled with life, as I wear the White 
Crown, as I appear in the Red Crown, as Horns and 
Set have united their halves in me, as I rule this land 
like the Son of Isis {i,e., Horus), as I have become 
strong like the Son of Nut (Osiris), as Re sets in the 
Boat of the Evening, and as He rises in the Boat of 
the Morning, as He joins his two Mothers (Isis and 
Nephthys — a confusion of the myths of Re and Osiris) 
in the Divine Boat, as Heaven abides, as that which 
He made endures, as I shall be unto eternity like an 
Imperishable Star, as I shall go down into the west 
like Atum (the god of the Setting Sun), so surely these 
two great obelisks, which My Majesty hath wrought 
with electrum for my father Amun, that my name may 
abide in this temple eternally, are of one block of 
enduring granite without seam or joining. . . . My 
Majesty exacted work on them from the (regnal) 
year 15, the first of the sixth month (of the absolute 
year) until the year 16, the last of the twelfth month, 
making seven months of exaction in the mountain. 

(East side) I did it for him in fidelity of heart, as 
a king to a god. It was my desire to make them for 
him, gilded with electrum. ... I thought how people 
would say that my mouth was excellent because of 
that which came from it, for I did not turn back from 
what I had said. Hear ye ! I gave for them of the 
finest electrum, which I had measured by the hekct 

1 Although previously she had said that the tip was of 
electrum, it looks as if it was completely overlaid. This is 
perhaps why she swears so solemnly that they are of one piece, 
as the overlaying might well conceal a joint. 


(5 litres, or just over a gallon) like sacks of grain. In 
quantity, My Majesty gave more than all Egypt had 
ever seen. The ignorant, like the wise, knoweth it. 

Let not him who shall hear this say that what I have 
said is a lie, but rather let him say : " How like her 
it is who is truthful in the sight of her father ! " 

The God knew it in me, Amen-Re, Lord of Thebes. 
He caused that I should reign over the Black and the 
Red land as a reward therefor. I have no enemy in 
any land ; all countries are my subjects. He has 
made my boundary to the end of heaven ; the circuit 
of the Sun has laboured for me . . . (an obscure phrase 
follows). ... I am in truth his daughter who glorifies 
him. . . . Life, stability and satisfaction be upon the 
Horus Throne of the Living, like R6, eternally ! 

At some period in the history of this obelisk, 
masonry was built all round it right up to the 
roof of the hall. This looks hke the work of 
Tuthmosis III, as the queen would never have 
covered up her inscription in this way. The 
difficulty is that the side scenes (see frontispiece) 
are unfinished, only reaching from the top to 
about half-way down the obeHsk. An accurate 
knowledge of the Tuthmosid succession is neces- 
sary before the history of the obeHsk can be 
fully understood. Another curious point is that 
the shaft of the fallen obelisk had been usurped 
by Tuthmosis III, while in the standing obelisk 
the queen's name is untouched. In the pedestal 
inscription of the fallen obelisk, which is in 
fragments, the queen records that her kingdom 
reached Punt on the south, the Asiatic marshes 
on the east, and the legendary mountains of 
Manu on the west. Her northern boundary is no 


longer legible. She also recounts on it the 
wonderful tribute which was remitted to Egypt 
in her reign. 

Another obelisk-architect under this queen 
was one Dhutiy, whose tomb (No. ii at Thebes) 
has been mutilated by Tuthmosis HL Among 
his many titles were Director of Works and 
Controller of the Double-houses of Silver and 
Gold. The great work by which he is known is 
the systematic recording of the treasures from 
the Punt expedition, and he appears — busily 
taking notes — in the reliefs in the temple of 
Der El-Bahari. As has been remarked, he was 
openly of the queen's party, and suffered in 
consequence. In addition to his recording work, 
he appears to have made gateways, shrines, 
thrones and small furniture for the temple of 
Karnak, and erected two great obelisks of io8 
cubits (i86 feet) high. We have no idea at all 
as to where these obelisks were placed ; further, 
it seems that such a high obelisk could not with- 
stand its own weight during its transport and 
erection (p. 76), unless it was vastly thicker 
proportionately than all others, so it has been 
suggested that the length given is the total 
length of the pair when placed butt to butt 
on the giant barge. It is more likely that the 
figure is an error in transcription from the 
cursive notes from which the tomb-inscriptions 
were copied. 

Puimre, whose name has already been men- 
tioned in connection with Sennemut, although 
he had done certain pieces of work for Queen 


Hatshepsowet, managed to retain the favour of 
Tuthmosis III when he reigned alone. In his 
tomb (No. 39 at Thebes, lately restored) he 
states that he erected two obelisks for Tuthmosis 
III at Karnak. By a process of elimination, it 
is likely that they were those which stood before 
Pylon VII at Karnak. Judging from the base 
measurements of the eastern fragment, they 
must have stood between 94 and 115 feet high, 
that is, higher than the great obelisk of Hat- 
shepsowet at Karnak, and only equalled by the 
Lateran obelisk at Rome (pages 30 and 108). 
The fragments of the companion obelisk have 
just been unearthed by the Antiquities Depart- 
ment and the foundations of the western pedestal 
exposed. Puimre's inscriptions are of Uttle 
interest. He tells us that he put up the obelisks 
(though he gives no measurements), that he 
made a limestone building and an ebony shrine, 
and that he recorded the tribute brought in 
from Watet-Hor, probably a frontier on the 
Asiatic side of the Delta. His titles were Pasha, 
Count, Sole Companion, Royal Seal-Bearer and 
Divine Father. A statue of him was found 
during the excavations in the temple of Mut at 

The obeHsks of Tuthmosis III, which were 
placed before the two which Ineni had erected 
for Tuthmosis I, thus forming a compact little 
group of four, seem to have been the work of 
Menkheperra-sonb, a name meaning something 
like " Here's to Tuthmosis III ! " These are 
shown being presented to Amun on a relief by 


the side of the sanctuary of Karnak, of which 
a photograph is given in fig. 38, as the inscrip- 
tions here tally almost exactly with those still 
visible on the picture of the obelisk in his tomb 
(No. 86 at Thebes) and with the fragments of 
those lying between Pylons HI and IV. His 
father appears to have been the powerful vizier 
Rekhmire (tomb No. 100). His statue, too, has 
been found at Karnak. He was, among others, 
Controller of the Silver House and the Gold 
House, High Priest of Amun, and Director 
General of Craftsmen. In his tomb, he says 
that he made two shrines — one of a single block 
of granite — and a colonnade. His work in 
connection with obelisks is recorded as follows : — 

I inspected when His Majesty erected obelisks and 
numerous flagstaves for his father Amun. I pleased 
His Majesty while conducting the work on his monu- 

The largest standing obelisk known is that 
which now stands in front of the church of 
S. Giovanni in Laterno at Rome (for dimensions 
see p. 30). We are not certain whether it was 
erected by Puimre, Menkheperra-sonb or another. 
It was made for Tuthmosis III, but he appears 
to have died after it had reached its site and 
before it was erected. His grandson, Tuthmosis 
IV, piously engraved and erected it before 
Pylon VIII at Karnak. It never had a fellow, 
and it is expressly stated that it was the first 
case of a single obelisk being erected. Tuth- 
mosis IV put it up in his grandfather's name, 
adding his own account of its history on the side 




columns of the shaft. Since the inscriptions 
are chiefly titles and encomiums, it will suffice to 
give the relevant portions which refer to its 
history. In the centre inscription on the south 
side we read : — 

Tuthmdsis (III) made it as his monument to his 
father Amen-R6, Lord of Thebes, erecting for him a 
single obelisk in the forecourt of the temple over 
against Karnak, as a first instance of erecting a single 
obelisk in Thebes. . . . 

Tuthmosis IV gives the previous history on 
the left column of the south side. After giving 
his titles, etc., he says : — 

Tuthmosis (IV). It was His Majesty who beautified 
the enormous single obelisk, which was one his father 
{i.e., ancestor) . . . Tuthmosis III had brought, after 
His Majesty had found this obelisk lying on its side, 
having passed 35 years in the hands of the craftsmen 
on the south side of Karnak. My father commanded 
that I should erect it for him, I, his son, his saviour. 

Tuthmosis IV goes on, with pride, to say that 
he engraved it with the name of his father. 
To our eyes it was his bounden duty, but it is 
certain that very few kings, except perhaps Seti I, 
would have done it. 

The next thing we hear of this obelisk is its 
transport from Thebes to Alexandria in a.d. 330 
under the reign of Constantine the Great, who 
intended to send it to Byzantium. About a.d. 
357 his son Constantius took it to Rome, and set 
it up in the Circus Maximus. In 1587 it was 
discovered there broken in three pieces and was 
set up at its present site by Domenico Fontana in 


1588. Whether it was removed from Egypt in 
a complete state or broken as it is now we have 
no means of knowing. 

The great obehsk at Constantinople was taken 
from Thebes to Alexandria, it is believed, by 
Constantine the Great (a.d. 306-337), and there 
is a record that the Emperor Julian (a.d. 360-363) 
addressed a letter to the people of Alexandria 
urging them to forward the shaft to its destina- 
tion and promising them a colossal statue of 
himself in return. It was erected in Constanti- 
nople by the Emperor Theodosius about a.d. 390. 
It originally stood in Karnak, and may well have 
been the w^ork of Menkheperra-sonb. The 
bottom of the shaft is missing, so that it does 
not stand at its original height. Some have 
supposed that it was the top part of the 108-cubit 
obehsks recorded by Dhutiy (p. 106), but those 
were of the time of Hatshepsowet, and this 
is clearly of Tuthmosis III. It may be the 
upper part of one of those which stood between 
Pylons III and IV. Its inscriptions are without 

The " Cleopatra's Needles " at London and 
New York originally formed a pair in the temple 
of Heliopolis, and were removed to Alexandria 
in 13-12 B.C. by the Athenian (?) architect 
Pontius. One (now in London) apparently fell 
from its pedestal early in the fourteenth century. 
The only explanation I can give as to how it 
escaped breaking is that there was a considerable 
accumulation of sand around the base and in its 
neighbourhood which let it down gently. The 


inscriptions on both these obehsks are only 
titles and laudatory phrases and have no 
interest at all. They were erected by Tuthmosis 
III and spoilt by the additions, in side columns, 
of the titles of Ramesses II. Their original 
architect is unknown. Pontius has, however, 
left us a brief inscription on the bronze cramps — 
shaped like crabs — which he inserted at each 
broken corner to give it additional support. 
These inscriptions in Greek and Latin read 
(according to Breasted) : — 





The history of their erections in New York 
and London is given on pages 117 and 121. 

The Arab writer 'Abd El-Latif, in about a.d. 
1 190, when he visited Heliopolis, saw two great 
obelisks there, one standing and the other lying 
broken. Less than three centuries earlier both 
are reported to have been standing, adorned 
with their copper caps. For many centuries the 
second obelisk has been missing, the only one 
remaining being that of Senusret I, of which a 
photograph is shown in fig. 2, p. 18. While I 
was excavating there for the British School 
of Archaeology in 191 2, under Prof. Flinders 
Petrie, we found fragments of the second 
obelisk quite close to it under the cultivation. 
The second obelisk was not of the Xllth dynasty, 
but of Tuthmosis III. These fragments have 
been arranged round the pedestal of the standing 


obelisk. (See Petrie, Heliopolis, Kafr Ammar 
and Shurafa.) Gorringe, in his Egyptian Obelisks, 
gives all the accounts of mediaeval authors on 
the subject of the obelisks of Heliopolis. 

During the XlXth dynasty our records about 
obelisks and their architects are fewer, though 
we know that many of them were erected. That 
in front of the Temple of Luxor, shown in fig. 39, 
whose fellow is now in the Place de la Concorde, 
Paris, was erected by a man called Beknek- 
honsu, whose tomb (No. 35 at Thebes) and whose 
statue, now at the Glyptothek, Munich, give us 
a great deal of information about his career. 
His autobiography is so clear that it can be given 
almost verbatim : — 

The Pasha, Count, High Priest of Amun, Beknek- 
honsu says : I was a truthful witness, profitable to his 
lord, extolling the instruction of his god . . . and 
performing the ceremonies in his temple. I was 
Chief Overseer of Works in the House of Amun, satis- 
fying the excellent heart of his lord, 

O all ye people, take heed in your hearts ; ye who 
are on earth who shall come after me through millions 
and millions of years. ... I will inform you of my 
character while I was on earth, in every office which I 
administered since my birth. 

I passed four years as an infant. 

I passed 12 years as a youth, being chief of the 
training stable of King Menmire (Seti I). 

I acted as priest of Amun for 4 years. 

I acted as Divine Father for 12 years, 

I acted as third prophet of Am<in for 15 years. 

I acted second prophet of Amun for 12 years. 
He favoured me and distinguished me because of my 


(Its fellow is now at the Place de la Concorde, Paris.) 


' t T .- '.-■ir^'-'. '■'^'. '' ■ %- ''1. ^ «-'. 



(Page 1:3.) 



rare talent, and appointed me High Priest of Amiin for 
27 years. 

I was a good father to my serf-labourers, training 
their classes, giving a hand to him who was in trouble 
and preserving alive him who had met with misfor- 
tune. ... I was Chief Overseer of Works in Thebes 
for his (Seti's) son, Ramesses (II), who made monuments 
for his father Amun, who had placed him on the throne. 

I made for him a temple called : Ramesses-Meriamun- 
is-a-Hearer-of-Petitions, at the upper portal of the 
House of Amun. I erected obelisks of granite therein, 
whose beauty approached heaven, A stone wall was 
before it over against Thebes. I made very great 
doors of electrum. ... I hewed very great flagstaves 
and I erected them in the august forecourt before the 

A contemporary sculpture of the pylon, with 
its obelisks and flagstaves, is shown in fig. 40. 
Beknekhonsu concludes : — 

I made great barges ... for Amun, Mut and 
Khonsu (the Theban triad) ; I, the Pasha and High 
Priest of Amun, Beknekhonsu. 

An account of the removal in modern times 
of the missing obelisk is given on page 116. It 
is a curious fact that the two were not exactly 
of the same height. 

It must not be imagined that obelisks were 
made almost exclusively in the XVIIIth and 
XlXth dynasties. In Rome and elsewhe e 
there are obelisks and fragments of obelisks of 
many other kings, including Psammetikhos, 
Hophra, and even the Roman emperors Hadrian 
and Domitian. 




A LTHOUGH the removals of obelisks from 
/-\ Egypt in recent times give us very little 
•*- -^information which might help us to under- 
stand the methods of the ancients, a brief 
account of them is of interest if only for the 
contrast ; it makes us appreciate the work of 
the Egyptians the more, especially when we 
bear in mind that every method used in modern 
days for the lowering and erection of an obelisk 
— which has never exceeded 331 tons in weight — 
always taxed the strength of the tackle to the 
utmost ; in each case it was onty just strong 
enough. Every modern removal has been a 
nine days' wonder, and a ponderous tome has 
appeared about it, yet the Egyptians, we know 
for a fact, set up obelisks of over 550 tons, and — 
if we are to believe their records — of more than 
800 tons, without troubling to put on record 
how they did it. 

The obelisks which we will deal with here are 
now known as the Vatican, the Paris, the London 
and the New York obelisks. The countries 
of the last two both claim their own to be the 
one and original " Cleopatra's Needle," though 
why they should be so keen on this title I cannot 
imagine, since they were both made by Tuth- 
mosis III some 14 centuries earlier. 



The Vatican obelisk had been taken from 
Egypt in Roman times, and it was moved in 
A.D. 1586 by Domenico Fontana from the Circus 
of Nero at Rome to the Piazza di San Pietro, 
where it now stands, incongruously decorated 
— like most of the other obelisks in Italy — with 
a brazen cross. The removal was performed by 
order of Pope Sixtus V. The method used was 
the heroic one of lifting it bodily by systems of 
pulleys actuated by a large number of capstans. 
The pulleys were slung from a gigantic tower of 
wood, popularly known as " Fontana's Castle," 
which was made of compound wooden baulks 
over a yard square in section. The pulleys 
were attached to the obelisk at four points along 
its length, the inscriptions being protected by 
matting and planks. The obelisk was first 
raised sufficiently high, being wedged at the same 
time from below, to enable a " cradle," or plat- 
form on rollers, to be introduced underneath it. 
It was then lowered on to the cradle and pulled 
to its new site, first down an inclined plane and 
thence on level ground. The erecting was per- 
formed in exactly the reverse manner to the 
lowering. The whole story, as translated by 
Lebas in his L'Ohelisque de Louxor, is distinctly 
diverting, and I cannot resist giving two extracts. 
He tells us (p. 178) : " Public curiosity . . . 
attracted a large number of strangers to Rome, 
and a bando of the Pope, published two days 
before, punished by death anybody who did not 
respect the barrier. . . . On the 30th April, 
two hours before daylight, two masses were 


celebrated to implore the light of the Holy Spirit. 
Fontana, with all his staff, communicated. . . . 
On the eve of the lowering he had been blessed 
by the Holy Father. ..." Before the work 
began Fontana told his workmen : " The work 
we are about to undertake is consecrated to 
religion, the exaltation of the Holy Cross " ; 
thereon everyone recited with Fontana a Pater 
and an A ve. The ceremony was made interesting 
for the spectators by the presence of some 
" familiars " of the Church, whose duty it was 
to administer summary punishment to anyone 
who misbehaved. Absolute silence for work- 
men and spectators was ordered, and the story 
is still told of a workman who disregarded the 
order at a critical moment, when the ropes had 
become slack and could be tightened no further. 
He cried : " Wet the ropes ! " — which was done, 
and the situation saved. For his initiative he 
is said to have had an annuity granted to him- 
self and his descendants by the Pope. 

The removal of the obelisk from Luxor 
Temple to the Place de la Concorde in Paris is 
perhaps the worst of these gross acts of van- 
dalism, since the Luxor obelisks were the only 
pair still standing in their original position. It 
was done by an engineer called Lebas in 1836. 
The obelisk was lowered and raised by means 
of a huge compound sheers, consisting of five 
members, or struts, on each side of it. The 
power was supplied by systems of pulleys 
worked by capstans. The model shown in 
fig. 41 makes this method clear as regards the 

Tig. 41. MODl-.I- SH()\V1N(, MOW rill-. I'AKIS ol'.KI.lSK WAS I.OWKRIU) AN1> 

{Pa!;e lift.) 


(I'dgi- 117.) 



appearance and position of the sheers, and the 
way in which the obehsk was slung from them, 
but only one capstan and system of pulleys is 
shown here. The obelisk was lowered on to a 
wooden cradle, on which it was dragged over a 
greased way, without rollers, to the Nile. 
There a pontoon-raft, with its prow temporarily 
removed, was waiting to receive it. The raft 
was towed home, the prow again removed 
and the obelisk dragged to the Place de la 
Concorde on its cradle, being finally brought 
up a slope leading up to the surface of the 
high pedestal on which it was to be erected. 
Though the obelisk weighed but 227 tons, it 
took a pull of 94 tons from the capstans to 
move it up the gradual incline. The edge of 
the obelisk was made to rest over the pedestal- 
notch, in which it engaged as it rose towards 
the vertical. Lebas's book, which is now very 
rare, is extremely interesting, giving many 
dehghtful sketches of some of the ludicrous 
situations met with in the course of the work, 
and of the cheery way in which the party over- 
came their difficulties, which ranged from an 
epidemic of plague to a shortage of wood. 

The New York obelisk originally formed a 
pair with the London obelisk in a temple at 
Heliopolis, near Cairo, and both had been 
moved in Roman times to Alexandria, close to 
the beach (see p. no). The English took the 
one which was lying in the sand, leaving the 
Americans the other, which was standing on 
its pedestal. At an earlier stage of its history 


all four edges had been broken away, and four 
copper cramps — shaped like sea-crabs — had been 
put at the corners to support it more firmly. 
In modern times only two of the crabs remained, 
the others having been stolen and blocks of 
stone put in their stead. The method of lower- 
ing the obelisk was ingenious in the extreme. 
The obelisk was first fitted with a pair of huge 
steel trunnions (similar to those seen on a toy 
cannon by means of which it can pivot around 
its centre). The trunnions were left loose until 
two steel towers had been constructed on either 
side of the obelisk, as shown in the model in 
fig. 42, to act as a support for them. A strong 
steel plate was passed under the butt of the 
obelisk and attached by a series of stout steel 
bars or " tension-rods," which could be shortened 
by screwing. Whether there was originally a 
space below the centre of the butt, or whether 
the obelisk was raised by jacks or rams placed 
under the four rounded-off corners, I am uncer- 
tain. (The plate and the tension-rods can best 
be seen in fig. 43.) The tension-rods were 
shortened by screwing, and the obelisk thus 
pulled clear off its pedestal, being supported 
by, and sliding through, the trunnion. The 
trunnion, which was arranged to be at the 
balancing-point of the obeUsk when it was 
sufficiently high, was next bolted tight and the 
obelisk itself braced by long rods, passing, as 
shown in the model, over a stiff support at its 
centre. From this position it was intended to 
let the point of the obelisk come slowly round 


(Huge 118.) 

[Page 119.) 



until it rested on a crib of wooden baulks (seen 

to the left in fig. 42). What actually happened 

was that, owing to a miscalculation of the 

balancing-point, the tip crashed down, breaking 

the holding-back ropes. It splintered about 

three courses of baulks and escaped breaking 

by a miracle. Another crib of baulks was next 

built below the butt, as shown in fig. 43. The 

next step was to remove the towers and the 

trunnions ; this was done by taking the weight 

of the obelisk off them by raising the point by 

oil-rams placed within the wooden crib. For 

those unacquainted with rams, it may be 

explained that they are appliances by which a 

great lifting force can be obtained for a short 

distance by means of oil compressed into them 

by a pump. A " jack," which enables one man 

to lift up the back of a heavy motor, has a 

similar function. In the model shown, the 

jack is actuated by hand through a bowden 

wire. Fig. 43 shows the weight of the obelisk 

being taken by the ram, so that the towers and 

trunnions can be removed. This being done, 

the rams are released and the obelisk comes 

down on to the crib. The rams are then used 

from each crib in turn, lifting the tip or butt 

so that a course of baulks can be removed and 

the obelisk gently lowered on to the course 

below. Fig. 44 shows the obelisk when it has 

nearly arrived at the ground. 

It had originally been intended to convey the 
obelisk through the streets of Alexandria to the 
harbour, but the inhabitants, especially the 


European community, who had opposed the 
removal strenuously, influenced the Municipal 
Council to forbid this. A special wooden slide 
had therefore to be constructed so that the 
obelisk, which was to be put in a wooden 
caisson, could be pulled down it to the sea, and 
floated round to the harbour instead. At the 
harbour it was introduced into a steamship 
called the Dessoug, by opening a port in her 
bows. The journey to America was compara- 
tively uneventful, and between the harbour and 
Central Park it did the longer journeys by rail 
and the shorter journeys rolling on cannon-balls 
running in U-shaped " channel-irons " ; i.e., 
cannon-balls were used as ball-bearings ! At 
Central Park the erection was performed, with 
elaborate ceremonial, under the auspices of the 

The method of erection was exactly the 
reverse of that used for the lowering, and it 
was carried out without a hitch on January 22, 
1881, or just about 2 J years after the London 
obelisk was set up. The work done was under 
the direction of Lt. -Commander H. H. Gorringe, 
U.S. Navy. 

Those who desire a complete account of al 
the removals of obelisks in mediaeval and 
modern times cannot do better than consult 
Gorringe, Egyptian Obelisks, from which much 
of the information in this chapter has been 
taken. This book was published to celebrate 
the erection of the New York obelisk, and will 
form a most excellent textbook for future 


removals, in case it is decided to present the 
remaining Egyptian obelisks to Yugo-Slovakia, 
Liberia and the like. The question of transport 
is the book's real drawback, as its size almost 
demands a sled and rollers ! 

The London obelisk had only to be trans- 
ported and erected, since it was already lying 
unbroken in the sand at Alexandria. The 
principle of the erecting process was the same 
as that used for the New York obelisk, except 
that, instead of the trunnions, steel shoulders 
with " knife-edge " bearing surfaces were used. 
These engaged in a huge wooden scaffolding 
instead of on the two steel towers. For trans- 
porting it by water it was enclosed in a steel 
shell, fitted, like a ship, with deck and mast. 
It even had watertight compartments. The 
" ship " was named the Cleopatra, and she set 
out from Egypt on the 21st of September, 1877. 
She steered very badly, and in a gale near 
Cape St. Vincent the steamship Olga, which 
was towing her home, had to cut the " august 
barge " adrift. Six sailors, who tried to reach 
the Cleopatra to secure her ballast, perished in 
the heavy sea. The Olga then lost the Cleo- 
patra, and, imagining she had foundered, she 
steamed home. The Cleopatra, however, had not 
foundered at all, and was salved by a ship called 
the Fitzmaurice, who towed her into Ferrol. A 
claim for £5,000 salvage was reduced by the 
Admiralty Courts to £2,000. Having arrived 
in the Thames on January 20th, 1878, the 
obelisk was brought right up beside the site on 


the Thames Embankment where it now stands, 
being grounded at high tide. After the shell 
had been cut away, the lifting on to the Embank- 
ment was done almost entirely by hydraulic 

At its erection, which took place in September, 
1878, an extraordinary collection of objects was 
put in the base of this obelisk, which ranged 
from sets of coinage, newspapers and standard 
works, to a Mappin's shiUing razor, an Alexandra 
feeding-bottle, a case of cigars and photographs 
of a dozen pretty Englishwomen for the benefit 
of posterity ! 

What would the feelings of Tuthmosis III 
have been when he ordered these obehsks for 
the god Re, had he known that one would be 
taken to a land of whose existence he never 
dreamed, and that the other would fall into the 
hands of what was then a savage people, and, 
after undergoing such vicissitudes as shipwreck 
and injuries from a German air-bomb, would 
still be standing, though thousands of miles 
away, after a lapse of nearly 3,500 years ? 


Dates of Egyptian Kings Mentioned in the 

Although the dates of the kings of the XVIIIth 
dynasty and onwards are known with great accuracy, 
there is a difference of opinion among scholars as to 
the dates of the kings between the 1st and the Xllth 
dynasties, which depends on whether the dark period 
between the Xllth and XVIIIth dynasties — which 
includes the Hyksos invaders — ^was long or short. 
Both the " long dating " and the " short dating " 
are given here. 

XIth Dynasty 

L.D. B.C. S.D. 

Menthuhotpe IV (?) . . . . . . 3592 


XIIth Dynasty (Complete) 

(Amenemhet I . . . . . . . . 2778 


Senusret I . . . . . . . . 2758 


(Amenemhet II . . . . . . . . 2716 


(Senusret II . . . . . . . . 2684 


(Senusret III . . . . . . , . 2660 


Amenemhet III.. .. .. .. 2622 


(Amenemhet IV . . . . . . . . 2758 


(Sebeknefrure . . . . . . . . 2569 





XVIIIth Dynasty (Complete) 

{Ahm6se I, " Amasis "I 
Amenophis I . . . . 

Tuthmdsis I 

Tuthm6sl3 II .. 

Tuthm6sis III and Hatsheps6wet 
Amenophis II . . 

Tuthra6sis IV 

Amenophis III 

Amenophis IV, the heretic King Akhenaten 



Ay (Eye) 






XIXth Dynasty (Complete) 


. 1350-1315 

Ramesses I . . 

. 1315-1314 

Seti I . . 

. 1313-1292 

Ramesses II . . 



. 1225-1215) 


. 1215) 

(Siptah . , 

. 12 15-1209) 

Seti II 

XXth Dynasty 

. 1209-1205 

Ramesses IV . . 

. . 


Ramesses VI , . 

XXVlTH Dynasty 

. 1157-1142 

Psammetikhos II 

. . . . 

. 593-588 


. 588-569 

Amasis II 


. 56^525 

Ptolemy II, Philadelphus 



Vocalisations of Egyptian Words. 

The following variations in the transcription of 
ancient Egyptian and other names and words have 
been given to mitigate the sufferings of the general 
reader, who is appalled and annoyed by the great 
diversity of ways in which the ancient words are spelt, 
not only in the guide-books but in technical publica- 
tions. As it has been noted in the preface, the method 
followed here has been to retain the Greek form if 
there are many variations and it seems passably close 
to the ancient pronunciation, otherwise to attempt to 
reconstruct its pronunciation in accordance with recent 
researches. This is the method used by the English 
philological school, as a supplement to the consonantal 
skeletons in use for all grammatical work throughout 
Europe and America. 

The diacritical marks to show the different A's, s's, 
etc., have been omitted. 

Key : — R. — Reconstructions. 
G. — Greek forms. 
X. — No data for vowels. 

O. — Old style, which represents the ancient conso- 
nants and semi-vowels by a, a, a, u. If the 
word is still unpronounceable an e is added at 
any convenient place. 
Those unmarked can mostly be proved Incorrect. 





'Ahmose-pen-Nekhbeyet (R.) 
AmenemhSt (R.) 
Amenem6pet (R.) . . 
Amen6phis (G.) 

Amen-Re' (R.) 
Amun (R.) . . 

Amasis (G.) ; Amosis (G.) ; 

Ahmose - pen - nekhbet (R.) ; 

Amenemmes (G.) ; Amenemhat 

Amenemapt (O.) ; Amenappa 

(from cuneiform). 
Amenothes (G.) ; Amenophthis 

(G.) ; Amenhotpe (R.) ; 

Amenhotep (R.) ; Amenhe- 

tep (O.). 
Amunre (R.) ; Amen-Ra (O.) ; 

Amon (R.) ; 

Amen (O.) 

Ammon (G.) 
Amoun (Copt). 

(This becomes " Amen- " when unaccented.) 

Aswan (modern use) 

Aten (X.) .. 
Beknekhonsu (R.) . . 

Dhuthotpe (R.) 

iDhutiy (R.) . . 

Haremhab (R.) 

Hatsheps6wet (R.) 

Hepusonb (R.) 
Ineni (R.X.) 
Khepri (X.) 

Makere' (R.) 
Menkheperra'-sonb (R.) 
Menmire' (R.) 

Menthuhotpe (R.) . . 

Syene (G.) ; Assouan (Fr.) ; 

Aton (X.) ; Adon (X.). 
Bakenkhonsu (O.) ; Bekenk- 

hensu (O.). 
Dhuthotep (R.) ; Thuthotep 

(R.) ; Tehutihetep (O.). 
Thutiy (R.) ; Tehuty (O.) ; 

Tahuti, &c. 
Harmhab (R.) ; Haremheb (R.) ; 

Harmhabi (R.) ; Horemheb ; 

(H)armais (G.). 
Hatshepsuit (R.) ; Hatshepsut 

(O.) ; Hatshepsu, Hatshop- 

situ, Chnemtamon, Hatasoo. 
Hapusenb (O.) ; Hepuseneb (R.). 
Anena (O.X.) ; Anna. 
Khepera (O.) ; Khepra (O.), and 

Maat-ka-Ra (O.) ; Ra-Maat-Ka. 
Menkheperraseneb (R.). 
Men-Maat-Ra (O.) ; Ra-Maat- 

Men ; Ra-men-Maat. 
Menthuhotep (R.) ; Mentuhetep 

(O.) ; Menthuhetep (O.). 

1 It is quite likely that the D was pronounced T in the New 
Kingdom, but the D is the more usually used transhteration. 



Monthu (R.) 

Nefrurfe- (R.) . . 
'OkheperkerS' (R.) . 

Psammetikhos (G.) 

Ra'- (unaccented) . 
Ramesses (G.) 

Ra'mose (R.) 

Rekhmirfi' (R.) 

RS' (in accented syllables) 

Sennemut (R.) 

Seti (O.) 

Tut'ankhamun (R.) 

Tuthmosis (G.) 

Menthu (O.) ; (Her)month(is) 
(G.) ; (Er)-mont (Copt) ; (Ar)- 
mant (Arab). 

Neferu-Ra (O.). 

Aa-Kheper-Ka-Ra ; Ra-Aa- 


Psamthek (R.) ; Psamtek (O.) ; 


Ramses (R.) ; Ramessu (O.) ; 
Rameses (O.) ; Rhamsesis 
(G.) ; Ramsasa, &c. 

Rames (O.). 

RakhmirS (R.) ; Rekhmara (O.). 

Ra (O.) ; Re (Copt). 

Senemut (R.) ; Senmut (O.). 

Sethos (G). ; Sethoy (R.) ; Sety 

Tutenkhamon (R.) : Tutankh- 
amen (O.), and many other 
versions, some frivolous. 

Thutmose (R.) ; 
(R.) ; Tahutimes 

Thothmes ; 


(For various methods of transcribing Egyptian names, 
see Appendix II) 

Abandoning Aswan obelisk, reasons of, 22, 29. 
'Abd El-Latif, 20. iii. 
Abusir, sun-obelisks of, i8. 
Accuracy of work in obelisks, 81. 
Amasis II, transport under, 88. 
Amenemhet III, expedition of, 85. 
Amenophis II, small obelisk of, 79. 
Amenophis III, barge of, 79. 

— colonnades of, 82. 
Anastasi Papyrus I, 70, 87, 89. 
Architects, historical notes on : 

— Beknekhonsu, 112. 
■ — Dhutiy, 106. 

— Fontana, Domenico, 109, 115. 

— Gorringe, Lt.-Commr. H. H., 120. 

— Ineni, 93. 

— Lebas, 116. 

— Menkheperra-sonb, 107, no. 

— Pontius, III. 

— Puimrd, 99, 106, 

— Sennemut, 22, 99. 
Assurbanipal II, 17. 
Aswan obelisk : 

— description of, 25. 

— dimensions of, 25, 30. 

— extraction of, 41. 

— quarry-face near, 26, 43, 46. 

— trench round, 41. 

Balls of dolerite (see " Pounders "). 

Barges for transporting obelisks, 60, 94, 117, 120, 121. 

Bed of removed obelisk, 27, 49. 

Beknekhonsu, architect, 112. 

Benben{t), sacred, 19, 

Bending stress, 75, 79. 

Block-and -tackle (see System of pulleys). 

Boats, ancient, 61, 79, 89, 94. 

— loading obelisks on, 64. 

— modern removals in, 117, 120, 121. 

— paucity of data on, 61. 

— troops used in unloading, 64. 

— unloading obelisk from, 65. 


INDEX 129 

Boning-rods, 36. 
Burning granite, 26, 33. 

Calculations, ancient, 76, 89, 90. 

Canal, statement by Pliny on, 88. 

Caps, metal, to obelisks, 20. 

Capstan, 66, 115, 117. 

Centre lines, 29, 41. 

Centre of gravity, 72, 75, 79. 

Chisel-marks, 33, 38, 41. 

Chisels, copper, 39. 

Choisy's theory of erection of obelisks, 76. 

Cleopatra's Needles (see London and New York obelisks). 

Colonnade of Luxor Temple, 82. 

Colossi, erection of, 76. 

Compartments in brick ramp, 90. 

Constantine the Great, transport under, no. 

Constantinople obelisk, 18. 

— history of, no. 

Constantius, shipment of obelisk under, 109. 
Copper chisels, 39. 

— tempering of, 39. 

Crabs, copper, under New York obelisk, in, n8. 
Cracks in granite, ancient examination of, 28, 37. 
Cubit, 28, 43. 

— common, 43. 

— royal Egyptian, 43. 
Cutting granite, 39, 40. 

Date of Aswan obelisk, 27. 

Dates of Egyptian kings, 123. 

Detaching obelisk from bed, 49. 

Dhuthotpe, statue of, 58. 

Dhutiy, alleged 108-cubit obelisks of, 76, 106. 

— history of, 106. 
Dimensions of obelisks, 30. 
Dolerite balls (see " Pounders "). 
Dragomans' tales, 91. 

El-Bersheh, transport scene from, 58. 

Electrum, 20, 79, 94, 97, 102. 

Elephantine, obelisks from, 18. 

Embankment at Aswan, 31, 70. 

Embankments for erecting obelisks, 68. 

Emery, 81. 

Engineers (see Architects). 

Engraving obelisks, 80. 

Entasis, note on, 37. 

Erection of colossi, note on, 76. 

130 INDEX 

Erection of obelisks : 

— by direct raising, 67, 115, 116. 
■ — ■ by embankment, 68. 

— Choisy's method, 76. 

— London method, 121. 

— New York method, 118. 

— Paris method, 116. 

— probable Egyptian method, 69. 

— at Seringapatam, 67. 

[ — under " Rhamsesis," 91. 

— Vatican method, 115. 
Extraction of obelisks from quarry, 41. 

" Feathers " for wedges, 34. 

Finger, division of cubit, 43. 

Fissures (see Cracks) . 

Flagstaves, 20, 108, 113. 

Fontana, Domenico ; architect, 109, 115. 

Foot ; measure, 43, 47, 49. 

Friction of sled, 57, 58. 

" Funnel " for erecting obelisks, 69, 

GoRRiNGE, Lt.-Commr. H. H., 120. 
Guide-lines for masons, 38. 
Gum, acacia, 41. 

Hammammat, quarries of, 85. 
Hammer-dressing, 36, 80. 
Hammer, granite, from Gizeh, 34. 
Handling-loops on ropes, 56. 
Hatshepsowet, Queen : 

— inscription of, 102. 

— obelisk of, on sled, 57. 

— obelisks of. Frontispiece, 17, 29, 30, 48, 60, 67, 72, 79, 98, 

— relations with Tuthmosis III, 64, 93, 95, 97, 105. 

— transport scenes of, 37, 61, 63. 
Heliopolis, obelisks at, 17, 18, 20, 37, no, iii. 
Henufer, mother of Sennemut, 10 1. 
Herodotus, record by, 88. 

Hieratic inscriptions, 46, 47, 51. 

Hog-frame (see Queen-truss). 

Hophra, king, 113. 

Hori, the scribe, 87. 

Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, attribution of, 82. 

Ineni ; architect, history of, 93. 
Inscriptions : 

— from architects' tombs and statues, 92. 
■ — Greek and Latin of Pontius, in. 

INDEX 131 

Inscriptions (cont.) : 

— Greek visitors', near Aswan obelisk, 31. 

— on bed of small obelisk at Aswan, 50. 

— on obelisks, 92, 96. 

— on pedestal of Hatshepsdwet's obelisk, 102. 

— on potsherd, 51, 

— on upper quarry-face, Aswan, 46, 47. 
Iron, preservation of, 40. 

— wedges, 34, 35. 

Karnak obelisks : 

— of Pylon III, 82. 

— of Pylon IV, 74, 93. 

— of Pylon VII, 29, 74, 107. 

— of Pylon VIII. 108. 

Lateran obelisk, 27, 29, 30, 107. 

— architect of, 108. 

— history of, 108. 
Lebas ; architect, 116. 
Length of Aswan obelisk, 25, 30. 
Levers, for " rocking " obelisk, 54. 

— found in excavations, 56. 

— raising obelisk by, 66, 67. 
Lines, guide, 25, 29, 38, 41. 

— measuring, on Aswan obeUsk, 43, 45. 
London obelisk : 

— history of, no, 121. 

— modern removal of, 121. 
Luxor obeUsk : 

— architect of, 112. 

— history of, 112. 

Mataria obelisk, 17, 30, 37, in. 

Menkheperra-sonb, 107, no. 

Menthuhotpe IV, expedition under, 85. 

Mindalah, 44. 

Model of embankment, 70. 

Models, ancient, 79. 

Modern removals of obelisks, 114. 

Monthu, temple of, at Karnak, 83. 

New York obelisk : 

— copper crabs under, in, 118. 

— history of, no, 117. 

— modern removal of, 117. 

— Pontius's erection of, in. 
Nineveh, transport of bull at, 56. 
Notch in obelisk pedestals, 67, 68, 72, 73. 

132 INDEX 

Obelisk-engineers (see Architects). 
Old Kingdom obelisks, 17, 18. 

Palm ; measure, 43. 
Palm rope, 56. 
Paris obelisk : 

— architect of, 112. 

— modern removal of, ii6. 

— notes on friction of " cradle," 58. 
Philae, obelisks at, 18. 

Pliny, record of, 88. 

Pontius; architect, 11 1. 

" Pounders " of dolerite, 30, 36, 38, 42, 50, 80. 

— broken by blows, 42. 

— pits made in granite by, 42, 45. 

— rate of work using, 48. 

— shod on to rammers, 42, 44. 

— trench round Aswan obelisk made by, 41. 

— wear on, 42, 

— weight of, 42. 
Psammetikhos, king, 113. 

Ptolemy Philadelphus, transport under, 88. 
Puimre ; architect, 99, 106. 

Quarries, 22. 

— reason why neglected, 24. 
Quarry-face near Aswan obelisk, 26, 46. 
" Queen-truss " on boats, 63. 

Ramesses I, 83. 
Ramesses II : 

— obelisks of, 18, 112, 116. 

— usurpations by, 11 1 . 
Ramesses IV : 

— expedition under, 86. 

— usurpation by, 96. 
Ramesses VI, usurpation by, 96. 
Ramesses-nakht, Director of Works, 86. 
Rammers, 42, 44. 

Ramose, father of Sennemut, loi. 

— tomb at Thebes, 19. 

Rate of work when pounding granite, 48. 
Records of ancient workmen, 46. 
Regnal year, 49, 104. 
Rollers, ancient, 58. 

— for transporting obelisk, 58. 

— size of, 60. 

Rolling obelisk out of quarry, 55. 

INDEX 133 

Rome, obelisks at, 18, 108, 109, 115. 

— (see also Lateran and Vatican obelisks). 
Ropes : 

• — handling-loops to, 56. 

— size of, 56. 
Rusting of iron, 40. 

Sand : 

— packing obelisk with, 55. 

— used in erecting colossi, 89. 

— used in erecting obelisks, 6g. 
Sarcophagi, unfinished, 23. 
Sawing granite, 81. 

Scale models : 

— ancient, 79. 

— used for illustrations, 70, 116, 118. 
Senmen, brother of Sennemut, loi. 
Sennemut ; architect, 22, 99. 
Senusret I, obelisk of, 17, 18, 30, iii. 
Seringapatam obelisk, 67. 

Seti I, king, 109. 

— model temple of, 80. 
■ — • works of, 18, 84. 

Seti II, obelisk of, 17. 

Setting out an obelisk, 32. 

Sheers, 66, 116. 

Shock-absorbers, 58, 74, 76. 

Single obelisk erected, 108, 109. 

Sleds, 57, 60, 70. 

Slot in obelisk pedestals, 67, 68, 72, 73. 

Soldiers used in transport work, 64, 86. 

Soleb Temple, obelisks at, 18. 

" Spanish windlass," 57. 

Statues of architects, 92, 99, loi, 107, 112. 

Steel, not known to Egyptians, 39. 

Stress due to weight of obelisk, 75. 

Sun-obelisks, 19. 

Surface-dressing, 36, 80. 

Surface-testing : 

— by boning-rods, 36. 

— fine, by flat plane and ochre, 80. 
Systems of pulleys : 

— in modern erections, 115, 116. 

— unknown to Egyptians, 66. 

Tanis, obelisks at, 18. 

Tempering of copper, 39. 

Test-shafts, 32, 35. 

Transliteration of Egyptian names, 10, 125. 

134 INDEX 

Tutankhamun, negative evidence of, 82. 

Tuthmosid succession, notes on, 97. 

Tuthmdsis I, obelisks of, at Karnak, Frontispiece, 61, 75, 93, 

96, 107. 
Tuthmdsis II, 95, 97, 
Tuthmosis III : 

— obelisks of, 27, 74, 75, 107, no, in, 117, 121. 

— reigns before Tuthmosis II, 97. 

— • relations with Queen Hatshepsowet, 64, 93, 95, 97, 105. 
Tuthmosis IV puts up Tuthmosis Ill's obeUsk, io8. 

" Undercutting " obelisks in quarry, 49. 

Vocalisations of Egyptian words, 10, 125; 

Wedges, 23, 33. 
Weights of obelisks, 30. 
■ — ancient arrangement of, 44, 

— by piece and not by time, 45. 

— method of measuring, 46. 

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